Discussions on black British identity have largely centred on the experiences of Caribbean immigrants from the Windrush era and their descendants. Where conversations have included the African diaspora in Britain, it is rare that the thoughts and experiences of second and third generation British Africans are considered. However, recent Cambridge graduate, Precious Oyelade, decided to shake up this conversation by looking at British Nigerian identity through the lens of Nigeria's thriving film industry: Nollywood.
When Precious submitted her dissertation in April, she did not expect the reception that would soon follow. Her dissertation entitled 'Changing Representations of Nigerian Identity: An Exploration through Nollywood and its Audience,’ was awarded a high first class, and it will soon be published. The 10,000 word thesis sought to explore second generation British-based Nigerians’ perceptions of themselves, Nigeria and other Nigerians and the role Nollywood plays in shaping this.
— Vanguard Connect (@VanguardConnect) June 26, 2015
Precious’ decision to write this dissertation was largely the consequence of her own questions about her identity as a second generation Nigerian living in Britain. Having grown up in South London, moving to Cambridge for university was a challenging experience. Precious highlighted the isolation she felt because of her South London accent and described her decision to cling to her Nigerian accent, which was ironically more acceptable in an institution with many international students. Despite being disinterested in Nollywood as a child, Precious described spending a lot of time watching Nollywood films at university, finding that it connected her to Nigeria and a part of her cultural identity.
“If Nollywood is the way I found myself to Nigeria, how has it affected the lives of other second generation Nigerians in the diaspora?”
However, answering this question proved difficult.
She adds: “A lot of the narratives I heard and a lot of the stereotypes I came up against in Cambridge were about African Americans… and even the Black British narratives were about street culture.”