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Exhibition shows off the art of Nollywood

From Isha Sesay, CNN
  • Exhibition pays homage to Nollywood style
  • It includes photographs, film and installations
  • Nigerian film industry produces hundreds of low-budget films a year

New York (CNN) -- A group of artists is bringing Nigerian movie making to a new audience with a New York exhibition paying tribute to the "Nollywood" film industry.

The exhibition is called "Sharon Stone in Abuja," after a 2003 Nollywood film, and is taking place at Location One gallery in the Soho district of New York.

Its creator, Zina Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian-British artist and filmmaker, said: "Sharon Stone in Abuja pays homage to Nollywood. It looks at Nollywood narrative conventions and explores African emotional landscape."

The exhibition contains striking photographs and films inspired by the themes and style of Nollywood, and includes an installation of a living room decked out in Nollywood style.

Nollywood art

Saro-Wiwa, who created the living room with New York based artist Mickalene Thomas, described the living room as the "ultimate Nollywood landscape."

She said: "Living rooms are very important in Nollywood. A lot of the action takes place in the living room and it's consumed there because Nollywood is a straight-to-video form."

The living room has photographs on the walls and Nollywood films playing on a flat-screen television. The photographs are called "Two Wives," by Thomas, and show two fictional wives of one Nigerian "oga," or big man. One is the first wife, and the other a house-girl, recently elevated to wifely status.

Visitors are invited to sit on the sofas and "feel at home."

Saro-Wiwa pointed out that the living room contained imported plastic furnishings, flat lighting and a conspicuous lack of "African objects."

She added: "It has a relationship with the look and feel of Nollywood, which is synthetic and plastic but aspirational at the same time."

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Another exhibit, called "Dancing Hearts, Hidden Tears," by Saro-Wiwa, is a wallpaper consisting of up to 1,000 Nollywood film titles.

Saro-Wiwa said: "I think Nollywood film titles are what I love most about the film industry."

It looks at Nollywood narrative conventions and explores African emotional landscape.
--Zina Saro-Wiwa, artist and filmmaker
  • Visual Arts
  • Nigeria
  • Art Galleries

UNESCO reported last year that Nollywood had overtaken Hollywood and was second only to Mumbai's Bollywood in terms of number of films produced a year.

It said that in 2006, Nollywood produced 872 feature length films, all in video format, while India produced 1,091 and the United States 485.

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The exhibition also contains a three-minute film about protest and dissent called "Shoe Shoe," by Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, showing a destitute figure hurling shoes in the direction of the camera.

Saro-Wiwa said the exhibition had been popular with both Africans and those unfamiliar with Nollywood.

She said: "People love it. I'm really touched by people's response to it, even if some of the ideas are a bit challenging."

She added: "I think the main response is that people have never seen Nigeria or Nollywood or Africa represented in this way.

"I think the way the show is done is not typical of how African shows are done. Even this idea of the emotional landscape of Africa -- that's not really been tackled before."

"Sharon Stone in Abuja" runs at Location One until January 22.

Catriona Davies contributed to this report.