Africa History Nigeria

Signal Boost: Colonial Film

Everyone from a country formerly colonized by Britain should go and watch the documentaries available at colonialfilm.org.uk to catch a glimpse of how things were back in the day. I am not entirely sure but the more I discuss with folks, and read comments on forums, the more it seems like there are a lot of folks who have the wrong idea about what colonialism and imperialism mean.

Perhaps by watching what is available in the archives of colonialfilm.org.uk and really paying attention to the kind of words and themes used in the documentaries, folks will have a clearer understanding on colonialism.

So far I’ve watched African Nurse (1948) where missionaries were training nurses as a tool for evangelism in South-Eastern Nigeria. Springtime in an English village (1944) shows a young African girl crowned as ‘May Queen’ in an English village to prove to African countries that ‘we British were not a dreadful race of people’…yes of course, after violently colonizing brown bodies and minds…as far as I’m concerned the whole coronation and everything could have been staged but at least the girl looks happy.

I enjoyed watching Giant in the Sun (1959), a study of Northern Nigerian before it achieved self-government. I actually liked this one, despite the annoying soundtrack that played with the market scene I believe I saw suya being made in that video! Also fura da nono. They even showed Zaria, my birthplace. I also found the connection between the durbar and polo interesting. I also noticed this, in 1959 they were reporting that Northern Nigeria is religiously tolerant and that there are many Christians and churches there. Now Western media is saying almost the opposite. I used to laugh when I met Nigerians from the ‘South’ who were shocked to learn that there are Christians indigenous to the ‘North’, now it is just annoying in a ‘how can someone be so ignorant?’ way.

Other fascinating documentaries I watched included, Nigeria’s first women police, Three Roads to Tomorrow (1961), shot in the University of Ibadan, Caribbean (1951), Castles and fisher folk (1933) from Ghana (I loved the clips of the children playing in the ocean, especially the laughing girl except the people who made the documentary probably did not see these children as human beings).

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