Hooray for Nollywood - Pioneering Scholar of Nigeria's Booming Film Industry Tapped for Guggenheim Award
Long Island University Brooklyn Campus Professor Edited First Academic Book on Nollywood
Helen Saffran,Associate Director of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. – An English professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus who has emerged as one of the preeminent sources on Nigeria’s booming film industry, Nollywood, has been awarded the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship to write his third book on the subject.
Jonathan Haynes, who edited “Nigerian Video Films,” the first academic book on Nollywood, is one of 180 recipients chosen from the 3,000 applicants for the 2011-2012 Guggenheim fellowship. The basis for the Guggenheim selections was achievement and potential.
“I became hooked on the films because they capture so much of what fascinates me about Nigeria: the astonishing, often frenzied energy of the place, the unfathomable richness of its cultures and its artistic creativity,” Haynes, 58, of Hampton Bays said about Nollywood.
Films in Nigeria are made on shoestring budgets of time and money; an average production is shot in about two weeks and has a budget of approximately $50,000. In existence for barely 13 years, Nollywood has produced thousands of titles and is now the world’s third largest producer of feature films.
“The Nollywood phenomenon was made possible by two main ingredients: Nigerian entrepreneurship and digital technology,” said Haynes, whose third book on Nollywood will be titled “Nollywood: Themes and Genres in Nigerian Film Culture.”
Earlier in his career, Haynes was a renaissance literature professor, writing two books on the subject. At the Brooklyn Campus, Haynes still teaches Shakespeare, while also leading classes in Non-Western Literature, African Literature, and African Film.
“Long-standing interest motivated this decision,” Haynes said, explaining his switch from renaissance literature to African studies. “I had extensive training in film as an undergraduate, had traveled widely, and the heart of my teaching life had shifted to courses in literature and colonialism and Third World film.”
In 1991, Haynes spent a sabbatical from teaching traveling in West Africa, attending FESPACO, the great Pan-African film festival. His interest in African popular culture was sparked by meeting ordinary people during his travels, listening to their stories and gaining perspective on how they viewed the world.
Immediately after this sabbatical, he received a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant to do research and teach at the University of Nigeria-Nsukka. This was so deeply interesting, he said, that he renewed the grant for a second year, moving to Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. A few years later he received another Fulbright to teach at the University of Ibadan. In 2001-2002 he founded and directed a study abroad center in Ghana for LIU’s Global College.
Haynes resides in Hampton Bays, N.Y., with his wife Sandra Dunn and their 11-year-old twins, Jesse and Chloe.
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