African Studies Research Seminar - Reincarnation of the Ófó̩ (Incantation) Genre in Nigerian Cinema

Conveners: Rebekah Lee and Miles Tendi

Speaker: Elizabeth Olayiwola (University of Abuja)


This paper traces the evolution of a Yoruba verbal art form, known as Ófó̩ (incantation), into cinematic expression with a focus on the creative reinterpretation of the Ófó̩ convention by the evangelical filmmaker Mike Bamiloye. Bamiloye, a Yoruba evangelical filmmaker, not only adapted, reinvented, and repurposed the Ófó̩ convention but did so within an entirely new cinematic genre. By closely examining the continuity of the Ófó̩ convention across time and its resurgence in a distinct social and spiritual context, this paper argues for the evolution of a new genre. The paper contends that the utilization of traditional Yoruba verbal art, particularly Ófó̩, whether adapted by Yoruba dramatists and filmmakers or modified by Bamiloye within a Christian context, has given rise to an innovative cinematic genre. Through this lens, we can better appreciate the construction of Yoruba oral arts. Drawing on examples such as Árélù, King of Thieves (Age̖sinkólé), Agbara Ila, and Àbè̖joyè, this seminal work follows the development of a film genre that draws inspiration from the elements of the Yoruba verbal tradition, particularly the Ófó̩ convention. This research significantly contributes to the curation of indigenous knowledge by delineating a unique cinematic genre within the Nigerian Film industry. In doing so, it aligns with the crucial objective of decolonizing Nollywood studies, offering a perspective that diverges from Western paradigms and provides a De-Westernized interpretation of Nigerian cinema.

Dr Elizabeth Olayiwola is an accomplished scholar with a focus on film, women, and religious studies. Her expertise encompasses teaching and extensive research in these domains. Presently, she holds the position of Leventis Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.