It seems like years ago now…goes to show how time flies and why it is dangerous to stay in one place for longer than need be.
It was one of the best features I had written…but I have since gone on to write features that are in a class of their own and I intend to keep it that way because as you grow, your work and handcraft should get better.
However, this particular feature, which was a commission about Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry went to print without my name. When I was commissioned to write the piece for an international publication, aimed at the African Diaspora, it was to examine if Nollywood was stifling other film industries in West Africa and Africa as a whole.
I had great help with getting my interviewees, both in Nigeria and the US. Thanks to technology, a message on Facebook connected me to some of the people I needed to interview.
It was a piece that I wrote with great joy but when the final draft and image used to illustrate the story came to my inbox…my mind was made up from the moment I opened it; no way in hell was my name going on a feature that had a woman with her god given knockers on full display. That is not why I went to university for four years to study nor is it what the Nollywood industry is about. Nollywood may have a lot of work to do on itself but my world it does not say to women to display all of their assets. To make matters very interesting, the actress whose image had been used with my piece…with the aim of showing that Nollywood can be brash and in-your-face had not been in a good film for years and if she had, it is only to show her asset to to the world. By all means, I am not hating on her for being well endowed. I love my twin girls for they are just the right size for my chest and body frame. But when you have that much, carry ‘IT’ and yourself with dignity. Besides if that is the way I want to present and represent women, I might as well apply for a job at The Sun Newspaper or Nuts.
At the time, the only reason I didn’t want my name on that piece was because that is not what I stand for and I honestly did not want my name associated with that. In the same vein, it was not what Nollywood represents. And in my naive opinion as the drama unfolded, that image overshadowed my hard work on that piece. When I read the pdf sent to me and I say this as a woman, all I could see was two set of bobby twin girls starring at me. Now imagine a man reading that, he would not remember a word from the article. I was and I am also sick and tired of African and Black women being presented and represented as sex objects. I know its what people want to see but I chose not to make that my job.
So, I walked away after talking to my mum and friend about it. I remember sitting with the editor, managing editor and designer of the magazine. The designer made a comment along these lines…’how come you are not bothered about the gun on the same feature and to him, that was double standard.’ To which I responded, we all have double standards and let’s be honest, we all have things we are hypocritical about…one man’s meat is another man’s poison…excuse the cliche/pun…I could not help it. Bedsides, I have seen Nigerian policemen, point their guns at my father a number of times when they stopped him on the road. It is well used in films to show good guys versus bad guys and oh, I forgot, it is sold in arms trade to developing and African nations to kill each other…do pardon me but that was a bad point to raise Mister…before I came along guns were being used and marketed to the world and I have no power to change that. However, I do have a right to say, this is not the image of an African woman I want my name associated with for that is not what we are. If individuals want to go down that route and take it all off…be my guest but I will not promote it. My name is more than a by-line. It is my signature and you cannot change or take that away from me, not now. Not ever!
I went away, thought about it and decided to take my name off the feature because the mind of the editor was made up as to what he wanted to do. It was hard and painful to walk away because that was my work…but I did it. My mum sent me an email with a line I will never forget – ‘What you are willing to walk away from determines what comes to you’ – Mike Murdock.
I walked away in pain but today, I write about this with great joy. It was awkward to send an email to all my interviewees and let them know what had happened and so, I could not send copies to them. A year later, I would have the same article published in a different publication, with my name and choice of images. However, this is where I am going with this. One of my interviewees is a Professor at Long Island University, New York, and he is well versed on Nollywood and the African film industry. I sent him an email with both articles, so he could understand why I had not sent him a copy before.
Earlier this month, he sent me an email which ended on this note…“I really appreciate both your article and your principled stand against the inflamatory & exploitative handling of your piece. I’ve seen much too much of that in the way Nollywood gets presented & it’s great to see someone pushing back against it.”
I honestly did not for one second think I was taking a principled stand when I walked away. For me, I didn’t like the image or agree with it. It overshadowed my work. I know I cannot change that part of the media. It will happen over and over. And who knows, I could interview someone and they send me an image with their assets showing…I know I will ask for a different image but if that’s all they have, then the question is, how do I tell the reader, this is the person the feature is about? Well, we can always use a link to their website. 🙂
Now on this website, I posted a piece a little while back and used a very revealing image… Black, Sexual and Spiritual with a video vixen in all her glory, will I take it off? No! Am I not promoting the same thing I walked away from? And why do I have it there? Read the blog and make up your mind…
In the meantime…I have to get back to meeting deadlines…
Have a fab weekend…I will!