Neo-colonialism in Nigeria

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This paper analyzes the extent to which this new form of colonialism – Neo-colonialism, affects Nigeria today. Through the review of the works of two Nigerian artists, Ibe Ananaba – a painter, and Kelechi Amadi Obi – a photographer, the paper sheds light on the current state of Nigeria as regards culture, lifestyle and mindset.

Transcript of Neo-colonialism in Nigeria






    Exploring the cultural and psychological effects of Neo-

    colonialism in Nigeria through the works of two indigenous artists.


    DATE:27 November 2012


    Colonization ended in Nigeria in 1960 when the British Empire handed over the reins of power

    to the people. Decades later, the after-taste of colonialism still lingers as a bittersweet savor in

    the lives of Nigerians. Whilst happy to be an independent nation, free of any form of Western

    governance, the ripples of colonialism still resonates deeply in the psyche of the people. Traces

    of it can be found in their politics, economy, religion, and especially in their culture or evolving

    culture as the case may be. A new form of colonialism exists where the people are still bound by

    the foreigners ways and try emulating it to the detriment of theirs.

    This paper analyzes the extent to which this new form of colonialism Neo-colonialism, affects

    Nigeria today. Through the review of the works of two Nigerian artists, Ibe Ananaba a painter,

    and Kelechi Amadi Obi a photographer, the paper sheds light on the current state of Nigeria as

    regards culture, lifestyle and mindset.

    Kelechi Amadi Obis fashion photography strongly reflects the degree at which Western culture

    has influenced the dress sense and moral values of Nigerian youths. Through Kelechis

    photography, the paper will be evaluating the extrinsic impact on the nation while Ibes paintings

    portray an intrinsic expose on the psychological impact to the soul of the society.

    This research questions just how deeply colonialism is ingrained in the minds of Nigerians today.

    As well as point out the roles the media and other forms of western influences have played in

    bringing about a change in the values and perceptions of Nigerian youths.

    The paper reveals the gulf that exists between what the Nigerian culture and lifestyle was before

    colonization and what it is now. The paper also highlights the need for a conscious effort at

    preserving, protecting and promoting the nations culture.


    Neo-colonialism. Lifestyle. Culture. Painting. Photography.


    Art plays a critically important role in the society. Its functional, utilitarian and aesthetic

    purposes are a core part of every societys existence. From time immemorial and even till now,

    art has served to tell the story of societies in ways even the people themselves were not aware of.

    Archeologists have figured out the stories and lifestyles of long extinct civilizations through the

    art they left behind on walls, vases and other artifacts.

    The artist is an orator who sees and re-creates the society in an art form. Hence, who is better

    suited to tell the Nigerian story as it is now than two homegrown artists Ibe Ananaba and

    Kelechi Amadi Obi.

    The Nigerian story bears a lot of similarity to that of a lot of other once-colonized nations.

    History records that whilst under the colonial rule, the colonized tend to associate the lifestyle,

    culture and norms of their colonial masters with power and success. This makes them look up to

    the ways of the foreigners and try emulating them. Leading to a colonial mentality where

    everything foreign is seen as superior to the already existing indigenous counterpart.

    Some of our youth are growing with some wrong values and to them those values are ideal. It would require dedication, hard work and time with great belief that it is possible to steer this nation to the right path. (Ananaba to Olowu, 2012)

    The people gradually adjust their native culture, language, skin color, and every other aspect of

    their lives, to look like that of the foreigners. This way of thinking could become so deeply

    ingrained in the mindset of the people such that long after gaining freedom from colonialism, the

    people are still subconsciously bound to colonialism. This new form of colonialism is now

  • referred to as Neo-colonialism, a term coined by Kwame Nkrumah, a Ghanaian politician and

    author. Camareb (2012). [Internet]. defines Neocolonialism as a situation in which such tools as

    cultural imperialism are used to control a country, in lieu of either direct military control or

    indirect political control. Neocolonialism is further described as socio-economic or cultural

    control, whereby promotion of the culture of the neo-colonist country, facilitates the cultural

    assimilation of the colonized people. (Camareb, 2012) [Internet]

    Kwame Nkrumah, encapsulates the entirety of what neocolonialism is about in his book, Neo-

    colonialism the last stage of imperialism.

    The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic [and cultural] system and thus its political policy, [values and lifestyle] is [are] directed from outside. The methods and form of this direction can take various shapes. (Nkrumah, 1965, p.3)

    The use of art to illustrate colonialism, neo-colonialism and other related issues, has long been in

    existence. The painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in the seventeenth century titled

    Motherland further buttresses this point.

    (Bouguereau, 1883)

  • Motherland depicts Great Britain as a mother of numerous suckling children. Though old enough

    to eat staple food, the children are still scrambling for her breast milk which she willing bares for

    them with a stoic expression on her face. It goes without being told that the children represent the

    different colonized nations which Great Britain has under her colony. The nations appear to be

    disorderly, squabbling, infants who depend on the mother for survival.

    That is one artists depiction of the colonial situation about two centuries ago. Till date, there

    have been several other interpretations by different artists, two of which this paper will be


    Silliman (2005, p.59) posits that evidence abounds indicating that shifts from colonial to

    postcolonial periods can bring about changes in indigenous experiences, opportunities, and

    cultures. Igboin (2011, p.6) seems to share a similar view as he states that colonialism stimulated

    positive and negative changes in Africa. He was also emphatic in his opinion that colonial rule

    was an imposition that unleashed deadly blow on African culture.

    Kelechi Amadi Obis photography and Ibe Ananabas paintings will be giving us insight into the

    cultural and psychological effects of colonialism inherent in Nigeria today. Egonwa (1995, cited

    in Irivwieri, 2010, p.1) states that there is a relationship between the creative expression of the

    various artists and people of Nigeria, in terms of form, subject matter and meaning. Traces of this

    connection will be found between Ibes paintings and Kelechis photography.


    No sane society chooses to build its future on foreign cultures, values and systems. Every society is obliged to search deep in its own history, culture, religion and morality in order to discover the values upon which its development and liberation, its civilization and its identity should be based. To do otherwise is nothing less than communal suicide (Magesa 1997, in Igboin 2011, p.7).

  • The above quote most probably reflects Ibe Ananabas mindset before he started working on his

    series Identity Check, which is what this paper will be reviewing. In Identity Check, Ibe

    captures the Nigerian spirit as it is today. He takes us deep into the minds of Nigerians and we

    see the conflict and struggle they battle within themselves. The series reveals the inner turmoil in

    their hearts about their current lifestyle and the state of the nation. It questions the state of

    Nigeria and her worn out value systems.

    Identity Check is an artistic potpourri of emotions ranging from pain to laughter; optimism to

    skepticism; and an assortment of other expressions that allow the viewer a peek through the

    window of the Nigerian soul. Splash of colors melt and dissolve into one another representing

    the merge of various cultures and ethnicity that is Lagos, a microcosm of Nigeria.

    Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria and a veritable representation of the nation. Its the starting

    point for a lot of trends and change in lifestyle all over the country. This makes it a suitable

    sample population to analyze Nigeria, which Ibe has done in Identity Check.

    I like to look at Lagos beyond a geographical location as an ideology. Theres something here that pulls people together. The communal living is still somewhat visible, and Lagos is dense and vibrant. A lot of hopeful people surround and inspire you, and the entertainment industry also adds vitality. The slang fusions and use of languages open doors to varieties of imaginations. The entire city is like a theatre that grips ones attention. (Ananaba to Miari, 2012, p.118)

    Identity Check is a series of paintings in water color and this paper will be reviewing some of the

    works in the series.

    The first work under review is a portrait titled The Optimist.

  • Fig. 3.1. The Optimist

    This is a portrait of a lady looking up for something better. She has two black strips across her

    face which has a double entendre: it represents visual footprints which are t