Calabash | 4 May 2008 09:14 CET


Mobile cinema, popular known as majigi (from the word 'magic'), used to be a popular medium of communicating government programmes, especially in the North. Now the Kano State government has brought it back.

Certain actions and events one would wish one could capture in one's mind's eye as a still or motion picture, to be treasured for all times – a child's dimpled smile, a lover's searching look into the eyes of one's beloved, molucles of raindrops, an airborne cap held by a whirlwind, and what have you. No doubt, the capture of a moving image in a celluloid remains as one of the most facinating products of the human mind. Motion picture, called majigi in Hausa, was introduced in Northern Nigeria by the colonial overloads as a form of a "drilling" method used to stimulate the Northern farmers in turning their attention to farming mostly cash crops for the betterment of the facturies in Europe. That was then. The method has been exhumed recently by the Kano State Directorate of Societal Re-orientation, an agency popularly known as A Daidaita Sahu. The director-general of the directorate, Malam Bala Muhammad, recently elaborated on what motivitated his office to walk back in history and borrow a leaf therefrom. I interviewed him in his office in Kano.

We learnt of a recent development in this institution – the return of majigi. What is it all about?

We live in a time when the moving image is so important in the social and other means of entertainment. People long to see the moving image, people love to watch movies, but because of lack of constant power supply, many people have not been able to watch films and get both the education and entertainment they need.

And you know, a long time ago mobile cinema had always been very important in the colonial administration, most especially in Northern Nigeria. It is a very important tool in entertaining as well as educating the public. Several years ago, likewise in the 70s, the multinational companies such as PZ used it for their adverts. This kind of entertainment has since vanished because of the coming of the cinema and television, home videos, and so on; people thus have access for entertainment at home, in the comfort of their sitting room, but most recently, due to lack of power supply, as I said earlier, television has become a decoration in most homes. We saw that it is very important to bring back that aspect of cinema, especially targeting the youth, who mostly spentdmost of their time outside their homes, just doing nothing and not engaging in any meaningful activity. Sometimes they go to viewing centres and watch films or movies which may not necessarily improve their values and culture or general outlook in life. So A Daidaita Sahu requested the assistance of the government to start going to selected communities every Friday and be showing films and movies through this mobile cinema. Alhamdu lillahi, we have been doing this for about five weeks now; each week we go to a separate local government.

Why was it introduced?

As I said earlier, the cinema is a very entertaining medium, unlike the television because it is a small screen. Most people were interested in seeing large screen then, and you know cinema-going in Nigeria, most especially here in the North, has some kind of connotation to it; if you should go to the cinema now, you would be looked down upon as a renegade, but in Lagos or Abuja people go to the cinema. In developed countries, families go to the cinema, decent people go to the cinema and watch intresting movies. But here you can't do that, which is a tragedy as it is a very good source of entertainment. Therefore, majigi as a mobile cinema is very important because the Imam can attend, the ward head or village head can attend, and everybody will come and entertain themselves after the isha prayer to late in the evening.

Therefore, we thought that we would give the people another medium of education, entertainment and enlightenment other than the television they knew.

What is the result? Has it been accepted by the communities you have visited so far?

Actually, we had started something akin to this in 2005. We used to follow the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness Alhaji Ado Bayero, wherever he went on tour to the local governments, and wherever the emir visited and was staying the night there, then we too would remain with him and in the night we would show the mobile cinema to the people of that area. So throughout the 44 local governments of Kano State, we have done it from 2005 to 2006. We are just starting this one now, it holds every Friday evening, and we go to a different community every Friday evening. Alhamdu lillahi, it is a big success. There was a village we went to and the women there said they wanted their own screen, because they wanted to watch it separately from the men. That was very interesting and since it was shown usually in the night, we now had to create a dual exhibition, one for for the men while the other one is for women and children.

Sir, which kind of movies do you show and where do you get your materials from?

The kind of movies we usually show are educational movies and our own societal re-orientation production. We produced these movies ourselves, in collaboration with Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN). We entered into a contract with them in 2004 to produce short films for us, and they produced several – I think nearly sixty – of those short films. For instance, there is one on drug abuse, on begging, girl child hawking, on the recklessness on the roads and other social ills. We will show the damage and how bad it is to the society. We have one on rural-urban migration, a very funny one; that is where a youth heard of the good things of life one can get in the city, he then left his village and came into the city with the intention of being part of the lucky ones, only for him to find himself spending his nights in the market stalls. He at last became disillusioned about life in the city and went back home to his farm. So this is the kind of films we show.

So you are not doing it in collaboration with any organisation?

No, there is an organisation that is an expert in mobile cinema activities, they have done it with a lot of people and other organisations. They are called Ummu Salama Film Production. We are collaborating with them.

Are they based here in Kano?

Yes they are. They give us technical expertise and we have all the equipments here at A Daidaita Sahu, but the ones we don't have, they get them for us.

Have you encountered any problems so far?

Not actually, because we did a lot of research on the programme before we started. We sensitized the village heads and the Hisbah. The police are there usually, and we don't encounter any problem. You know, this is something people are very interested in.

How do you select your venues?

We usually send our representatives ahead of time to notify the village or ward head of our coming, and it is the village head that will select the most convenient venue for us. We also notify the police and the Hisba, so that they will provide adequate security needed to run the programme and for the security of the people as well.

Thank you sir.

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