Hot Takes: How ‘Anikulapo’ & ‘The Woman King’ Revise History & The Issues in Marlian Music
the hottest pop-culture takes this week
the hottest pop-culture takes this week
It is officially campaign season in Nigeria and candidates are preparing their manifestoes and shuffling around to make electoral promises and statements. On social media, opposing party supporters are trolling one another, most recently after one candidate shared evidence of his supposedly clean bill of health. This is just the beginning, as more drama will unfold before the presidential elections next year.
Outside the continent, Asake’s impressive run continues, after the love from his UK fans forced him to consider announcing a new venue and dates for his tour. Another Nigerian artist who is having a great time outside the shores of Nigeria is Tems. She won the BMI Impact Award for her “ground-breaking artistry, creative vision and impact on the future of music,” exemplifying that her meteoric rise is not ending anytime soon. In America, Kanye West has received backlash after calling the Black Lives Matter movement a fraud. This week, I write about the films Aníkúlápó and The Woman King and the changes their directors make to the period pieces, as well as tension in the Marlian Music camp.
The new Show Dem Camp tape ‘Palmwine Music 3’ is out and I’m still reeling from the track “WYW” featuring Bellah. It is a realistic portrayal of the modern dating scene and the emotion-fueled complications that often follow a breakup.
Ghanaian artist Black Sherif’s debut album is out also. I’m yet to listen to it but I foresee a great listening, considering how much I love the pre-album single “Soja.” There is so much honesty and vulnerability in Black Sherif’s music feels so genuine. From “Second Sermon” to “Kweku the Traveller,” his music just draws me in.
Over the years, filmmakers have taken creative liberties with their productions, even when telling real-life stories. Whether it’s a tweak in historical fact or a change of name, filmmakers make these alterations depending on the kind of story they want to tell or whose point of view they choose to tell those stories.
Kunle Afolayan’s Aníkúlápó and Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King are two newly released films making the rounds in Nollywood and Hollywood respectively, two of the largest film industries in the world. Aníkúlápó and The Woman King are both epics set in the 18th century, in a period where the trans-Atlantic slave trade reigned.
The former focuses on the rise and fall of a traditional textile weaver who, by chance, gains the power to raise the dead. The latter is an account of the Agojie, an army of female soldiers who protect the West African kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day Benin Republic. In both films, the Yoruba-speaking Oyo Empire is an important feature: Aníkúlápó is set in Oyo, while in The Woman King it is the Dahomey kingdom’s archrival.
Between the 18th century and 19th century, the Oyo Empire was a pivotal tribe in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with the empire contributing to the large numbers of Africans taken away from the continent as slaves. They achieved this by also pulling assistance from the kingdom of Dahomey, an area they controlled. While Aníkúlápó and The Woman King have fantastic entertainment value, coupled with the former’s tidy storytelling and the latter’s action choreography, they toy with the strands of history.
In an early scene in Aníkúlápó, the council of elders in the Oyo Empire engages in a discussion about whether or not to let the European traders who have arrived on the continent into their land. Finally, they choose not to open their doors, fearing that they would be invaded and taken into slavery. That scene, along with other scenes that mention the slave trade, paints the Oyo Empire as victims rather than perpetrators, as people who, just like other tribes, lived in fear of the European slave traders.
In The Woman King, the Oyo Empire is portrayed in a true light. They collaborate with Portuguese slave traders, kidnapping victims and setting up auctions. On the other hand, the Dahomey Kingdom is depicted as a strong opposition force to the slave trade. In one scene, after the kingdom’s ruler King Ghezo had agreed to select a few of his soldiers to be sold, the obeisance turns out to be a ruse as the soldiers attack the soldiers of the Oyo Empire and the European slave traders.
When the history of that period is considered, it stirs wonder as to why Afolayan and Prince-Bythewood chose the routes they took. In the case of Aníkúlápó, would depicting the Oyo Empire as an important branch of the slave trade in Africa have changed the audience’s reaction to the story? How much change would that have meant to Shola Dada’s script? On the other hand, were the tweaks in The Woman King strictly to enhance entertainment value? Did the film crew worry that giving a factual story of the Dahomey Kingdom’s involvement in the slave trade would steer the action flick in the direction of pure drama?
Afolayan and Prince-Bythewood hold all the answers but it is important to note how much information about a period that filmmakers choose to withhold, alter or offer, especially in these times when, for many people, pop culture is often the primary source of information. Afolayan and Prince-Bythewood are not the first filmmakers to alter history and will not be the last. This is simply a call to audiences to probe into the past and dig out reality, and not only rely on the realities shown on the big screen.
Earlier this week, Nigerian artist Mohbad opened up in a series of tweets that his life is at risk, and that he had been beaten up by a team of goons, who allegedly acted on the orders of his label boss Naira Marley. According to the Marlian Music singer, he claimed that his offence was requesting a change of manager. Mohbad also shared videos of the injuries he sustained and shared a photo wherein he said he had been admitted to a hospital “as an emergency hypertensive patient.”
I’ve been admitted as an emergency hypertensive patient but I’ll be back later to say my own bit of the situation.
Quick flashback to February 24th this year when this happened and they said I was intoxicated.
Please note my producer and friend that I went with were beaten too pic.twitter.com/paBmuOLuXR
— Mohbad Imole (@iammohbad_) October 5, 2022
This will be the second time that Mohbad calls out label boss, Naira Marley for trying to physically harm him. The first accusation happened in February after Mohbad went live on Instagram, claiming that “If I die, na Marlian Music…Naira Marley kill me.” In now-deleted tweets, Naira Marley called Mohbad’s accusation false and claimed that the latter was intoxicated with drugs. He reiterated that sentiment on an Instagram live video, saying that it was just an in-house affair.
Mohbad’s friend his personal dance instructor Ore just went live on iG some minutes ago.. Naira Marley just dea lie!
Watch till the end 💔 pic.twitter.com/HvmeA2iRxR
— Timilehin Daniel. Ade (@Timmydennyd) October 5, 2022
It is a shame what is going on between Naira Marley and his artist. As the CEO of a record label, controversy like this, especially one where violence and physical assault is involved, should never come up when a label’s name is mentioned. It behoves on Naira Marley to sort the mess. There are rumours that Mohbad might want out of the label. If so, he and Naira Marley should take the matter to court, if it involves that, and let the law take its course.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
The events of the last two days have left indelible scars in my heart.
I have always just wanted to create good music and to provide for my family and myself through my music. As an Artiste from the street, I thought the Marlian Family would be a good place for me.
— Mohbad Imole (@iammohbad_) October 6, 2022
Featured image credits/Israel