Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

Okello Oculi writes about a Nigerian documentary series featuring inspiring stories from African women.

On Sunday, 20 Match 2011, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) broadcast the first of ten one-hour documentaries made by Ms. Debrah Ogazuma, winner of the 1991 edition of the Union of National Radio and Television Organisations of Africa (URTNA) ‘Nelson Mandela Prize for Television Drama’. She is also known for an epic NTA production of 43 weekly episodes of ‘Magana Jari Ce’, an adaptation of Abubakar Imam’s book of tales.

‘Will The Eagle Soar?’ was telecast back-to-back for ten days in a row.
The television documentary was shot in six African countries and the home-country Nigeria. With its focus on the vital role that must be played by Africa’s women if the continent is to achieve development in each country, Ogazuma interviewed women and men politicians, top government officials and female university students in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria.

The eagle is Nigeria’s national bird, and its brilliant animation by computer artist Wale Olaiya carries on its combative head a narrative that runs through each episode of the documentary. Shown as ever resolute and, at one point, even dropping a sweat as it struggles to take off into flight, the lame one-winged and desperate bird (whose lone tool of flight has pictures of Nigerian men engraved into it), repeatedly falls on its back. That drama is given angry meaning by Senator Patricia Akwashiki - who is seeking re-election by her constituency in Nasarawa State in central Nigeria - when she angrily proclaims that Nigeria’s male-dominated political and economic system will continue to crash and fail to take-off so long as women do not achieve equity.

With a rich script reflecting voices of Mau Mau freedom fighter Muthoni Likimani in Nairobi, Kenya; legendary teacher Sarah Ntiru in Uganda’s capital Kampala; Professor Bolanle Awe, Ambassador Judith Attah and Professor Felicia Ogunsheye from Nigeria; Queen Mother of Efutu and Krontihemaa of Oguaa of Ghana’s Cape Coast, the documentary celebrates authoritative voices of Africa’s pioneer post-colonial generation of women intellectuals.

The current generation of women articulate victories won by women in the alleys of power through political struggle and enlightened constitutional provisions. Other voices reveal a rich undergrowth of combative insights about women’s aspirations for their own and Africa’s progress that has a most educative commonality across the continent.

Explaining to me, in an interview in Abuja, her use of Fatima Abbas- Hassan as the series’ narrator, Ogazuma says: ‘It was as if the script was made for her. Her voice is so many things: authoritative, probing, and sonorous; and invites you to objectively analyse the issues.’

Fatima’s voice, the director of the documentary says, ‘does not at all give the impression that you will not agree with her, will not accept her position; she tells you that you and her are going along on this exploratory journey; and, somehow, she does not provoke a rebellion in you.’

Ogazuma, who wrote the script, sees her own background in drama productions as enabling Fatima Abbas-Hassan’s narration to engage viewers, while ‘the scripting style and the dialogue of characters that speak are all one movement’. With an obvious satisfaction, she says, ‘I want to believe that it is bringing the Brechtian style of drama in which the viewer is invited to critically analyse what is going on.’

The documentary, funded by Amina Az-Zubair as presidential assistant on Millennium Development Goals, through Nigeria’s Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, has a distinctly Nigerian focus. According to Ogazuma, its message is ‘to let us (Nigerians/Africans) see what other countries in our own region are doing. Nigerians are supposed to benefit from what other African countries are doing, what their experiences are, where there are shared experiences, what are the ways in which these experiences have been creatively applied to solving problems, helping the women and the countries to grow, develop.’

Ogazuma is expected to visit African countries to speak about the documentary series.


* Okello Oculi is executive director of Africa Vision 525 Initiative.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.