Muslim Martyrs and Pagan Vampires
Popular Video Films and the Propagation of Religion in Northern Nigeria
Keywords:Islam in Northern Nigeria, Conversion to Islam, Religion and Media
In December 2000 the government of Kano State in Muslim northern Nigeria reintroduced shari’a and established a new board for film and video censorship charged with the responsibility to “sanitize” the video industry and enforce the compliance of video films with moral standards of Islam. Stakeholders of the industry took up the challenge and responded by inserting religious issues into their narratives, and by adding a new feature genre focusing on conversion to Islam. This genre is characterized by violent Muslim/pagan encounters, usually set in a mythical past, culminating in the conversion of the pagans. This article will first outline northern Nigerian video culture and then go on to explore local debates about the religious legitimacy of film and video and their influence upon recent developments within the video industry. By taking a closer look at video films propagating Islam it will focus on three points: first, videomakers’ negotiation between the opposing notions of religious education and secular escapism; second, inter-textual relations with other (film)cultures; and third, political subtexts to the narratives, which relate such figures as Muslim martyrs and pagan vampires to the current project of cultural and religious revitalization.
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