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Award for Nollywood impact research

4 October 2020

Photo of Alex interviewing set designer Ike

A ‘well-crafted’ doctoral thesis on little-known impacts of Nollywood – the Nigerian film industry – has won an award for Alexander Bud, a research student in The Open University's Development Policy and Practice (DPP) group.

His examination of Nollywood’s links with the wider Nigerian economy points to a more sustainable alternative to current models for industrialisation in Africa.

Alex’s research looks at how workers in a range of film industry roles – from set designers and location managers to costumiers and poster printers – raise their skill levels and transfer the benefits to other industries in the wider Nigerian economy and beyond. He explains:

“If you work as carpenter on a film set you have to develop your skills to a higher level for the camera, and to learn new styles, which all transfers really well to making furnishing for the domestic market.

“Set decorators are transferring their skills to the wedding industry, which has been influenced by epic film sets, and costume makers learn how to make new styles. 

“The costumes and furnishings seen in films have helped create a distinct ‘Nigerian fashion’ which has become popular in other countries. So the film industry is helping incubate distinct styles for the domestic market, which are then exported.”

“This looks like a more promising and sustainable strategy for development than the manufacture of low-value commodities for export. 

“It builds up an expertise unique to the country, which can get better and better and move up the value chain.” 

Deeper insight

To get a deeper insight into the lives of film industry workers, Alex spent a year in Nigeria, much of which involved living 24/7 with local people; and on some occasions sleeping alongside the workers on the set construction sites.

“Part of my research was conducting semi-structured interviews with the location managers and the ‘big men’ who own those, and the other part was ethnographic research on the film studios in Lagos, embedded in the company of set workers.

“I think that had the biggest impact on me. I slept on the construction sites where the set workers were, I washed with them, carried out all the daily functions of living.  

“Usually when you are doing research you are very focused, trying to make use of every moment, but sometimes you take a break and just chat to people, and it was those moments when I actually had some breakthrough experiences.”

'Ensemble of different disciplines'

Alex’s thesis In Search of the Nigerian Pastoral: Nollywood and the Nigerian Creative-Industrial System won second prize in the Audrey Richards awards for best doctoral thesis of the last two years, presented by the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK)  who praised ‘the ensemble of different disciplines which the candidate has garnered to bring Nollywood to the world of the academy’.

Alex was inspired to join DPP by Professor David Wield who became his PhD supervisor, along with Professor Giles Mohan and Dr Jose-Maria Munoz, his external supervisor at the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. 

He was also supported and mentored by Professor Françoise Ugochukwu of DPP team, a leading researcher in Nigerian film studies. She introduced him to the Nollywood archive at the OU’s Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies

“DPP is just amazing,” he said. “They have people with decades of life experience in what they are doing, it is really a special place as far as development studies goes.”

Alex has made a short video about his Nollywood research, watch here.

Photo shows Alex (left) talking to set designer Ike

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Contact us

To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)1908 858502
E: international-development-research@open.ac.uk