Muslim Martyrs and Pagan Vampires

Popular Video Films and the Propagation of Religion in Northern Nigeria


  • Matthias Krings University of Mainz



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.

Author Biography

Matthias Krings, University of Mainz

Matthias Krings is Junior Professor of Anthropology and African Popular Culture at the University of Mainz, Germany. SInce 1992 he has conducted research in Nigeria on spririt possession, internal migration, and small media. He is currently involved in a research project on the reception and remediation of Nigerian video films in East Africa.


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How to Cite

Krings, M. (2005). Muslim Martyrs and Pagan Vampires: Popular Video Films and the Propagation of Religion in Northern Nigeria. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 1(2-3), 183–205.