African Magic is the name of a Nigerian TV soap opera which would make 'Crossroads' or 'Acorn Antiques' (for those with long memories) look like a performance of the RSC.
Wherever you go there is an episode of A.M. within sight and earshot - from a scheduled meeting with the perm. Sec at the Ministry of education, to the barber of Sabo-Oke; from the MTN mobile phone office to the Anchor Hospital waiting area, African magic is your constant companion - more ubiquitous than Celine Dion! - but not so irritating!! This week i have been in three important meetings at which the blare and glare of AM has been present, competing for the attention of the person I am supposed to be discussing with.
A.M. takes place in a middle class suburb, presumably in Lagos, where the lives, intrigues, crimes, affairs and misconstrued events are supposed to take place.
The men-folk tend to be cast as either 'Oga' - 'big' men who are made to regret selfish or criminal acts, or they are dupes to the wiles of flirty wives or evil business partners.
The women usually end up shouting at a rival who has seduced their husband, or at an unreasonable boss, or is in tears, confiding in a woman- friend, over a domestic tragedy.
I am genuinely not certain whether the ham acting is deliberate or whether it is a particular style adopted for this Nollywood production. There are frequent occasions when actors miss a cue or forget a line, or there is a break in continuity or a particular shot looks highly amateurish - but is it all deliberate, I wonder?
The subject matter is entirely in keeping with Nigerian societal issues - crime, drug dealing, alcohol abuse, corruption, witchcraft, breaches of the 10 Commandments etc. It is all a question of men and women behaving badly - but with a moral message for us all.
In a recent episode an 'oga' was arrested on suspicion of having murdered his own son - having 'confessed' to an informant who he was just about to have killed by two henchmen. The conversation was being recorded and listened into by the police, who happened to be waiting in the next street in an unmarked car, on the informant's hidden mobile phone. As the 'baddies' were led away, the 'goody' , who had just been praised by the police for his role in apprehending the villains, seemed to have forgotten his role and was led away in disgrace by police officers along with the baddies. The scene cuts to the lounge of the oga's wife where she is in floods over her wicked husband and on the wall behind her is a large poster declaring 'The Police is your friend'!
One of my Corper trainees has been trying to get into the film industry now that his volunteering year is almost over. I hope he sets his professional sights higher than the producer of African magic ( or does its producer know his audience really well - they take it all very seriously!), unless the production is entirely tongue-in-cheek in which case it is masterful and really good fun! It is almost worth persuing VSO to get us a telly for!