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Organizations: Center for Global Engagement

A professor from the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences has spent this academic year in Nigeria teaching, speaking and researching the Nigerian film industry.

Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of English Dr. Kolawole Olaiya is supporting professional communication programs at the Federal University of Technology Akure in Nigeria as part of a U.S. Department of State and Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award. 

He is teaching graduate students at the Federal University of Technology Akure’s Institute of Technology-Enhanced Learning and Digital Humanities and helping them develop new project ideas. He’s also researching the customs and cultural attitudes that encourage and indirectly normalize sexual and domestic violence and will publish his findings. 

Dr. Olaiya commented that, in many cases, a patriarchal system in Nigeria and resistance to change works against women. Many cultures put an emphasis on women giving birth to male children to carry on the family name. 

“Change is always a difficult thing, so there’s always resistance to change. Some of the cultural attitudes that are supposed to be outdated are still being recycled in the movies. These themes are common and then, of course because of that, imagine the psychological torture for the woman,” he said. “Is the movie producer changing the narrative to reflect what’s happening in modern times? Are they still recycling this old story? Or are they just telling a single story?” 

In addition to feature-length movies, Dr. Olaiya is also looking at skits, which are short, but impactful films produced across Nigeria. 

“These short productions have a single major conflict that lasts in most cases about 5-10 minutes. These are so common in Nigeria,” he said. “If you go to YouTube, you can find them. It’s kind of popular because it’s easy to weave a story around a particular product. It’s replacing adverts now. They promote certain products. And points of view. I’m finding out they contain a lot of violence promoting a certain kind of view about the culture.”

The Nigerian Film Industry

The Nigerian movie industry, known as Nollywood, is growing so fast that its output surpasses Hollywood. Nollywood is a multibillion dollar industry that’s dominant on the African continent and its reach has expanded worldwide, thanks to platforms that include Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube.

As part of his research, Dr. Olaiya has been interviewing actors, writers, directors and producers. 

My Fulbright project is 50 percent teaching, 50 percent research. I am currently conducting a scriptwriting workshop. Part of my interest is how to write movie scripts, how to write for feature films and so on. I’m conducting a workshop not just for students, but for faculty and staff who are coming to partake in my workshop,” he said, adding that the American Embassy often invites him to talk on anything that pertains to his field.

Dr. Kolawole Olaiya interviewed many in Nigeria's film industry.

To learn more about the Nigerian film industry, check out the blog Dr. Olaiya created on his website featuring artists, actors, producers, script writers and others who work in the Nigerian film industry. He has also posted many interviews online on his YouTube channel.

About the Fulbright Program

Dr. Olaiya is among a select group of U.S. citizens teaching overseas during the 2023-2024 academic year through the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program. The program helps professors in the United States to expand their professional networks and forge future partnerships between institutions. 

Notable Fulbright alumni include 62 Nobel Prize laureates and 78 MacArthur Fellows. More than 400,000 participants from more than 160 countries—like Dr. Olaiya—have been chosen for their academic accomplishments and potential with the goal of providing them with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions for communities across the globe. 

Dr. Olaiya is an honors graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University in Osun, Nigeria, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts. He earned a Master of Arts in English from the University of Maiduguri in Nigeria and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Dr. Olaiya has taught English, literature, writing and communication courses at Anderson University since 2015.