Ronke Macaulay’s “Green Passport in the Rainbow Nation: the story of Nigerians in South Africa,” a document with a premise as enshrined in the title, is about the life Nigerians live in the southernmost African nation of South Africa. It got its official premiere at the reputable iRep International Documentary Film Festival in Lagos. With the theme, Archiving Africa, what better film do to feature than Macaulay’s?
Before we delve into what Macaulay achieved with this, it is paramount we understand the necessity of this project. There are thousands of Nigerians living and finding sustenance for their lives in South Africa, and many more queue up at the embassy in Nigeria. And historically, the two nations have at times bonded like Siamese twins.
Macaulay’s work seeks to make the most of its time by not gallivanting with the less necessary. It isn’t a work that aims to destabilise you with artistry the likes of an Emmanuel Lubeski shot. It does the relevant. Macaulay brings us into South Africa with fine voices of two ladies singing Ubuntu lyrics. Ubuntu, we understand, is the South African version of mi casa es Su casa. And the voiceover that narrates literally says to you “welcome and be hopeful”.
The documentary, after its brief introduction of South Africa and the culture therein, switches to the business at hand—understanding the lives of Nigerians in South Africa. Macaulay shows us the food! Yes, what is culture without food, and what defines your integration into a place if you can’t cook your local delicacies. Nigerians in South Africa get to whip up nice plates of jollof rice, egusi soup, eforiro and those from restaurants owned by their fellow countrymen.
Now, we would want to know the major reason why Nigerians travel to South Africa. The opportunities, right?And how they may be different from the ones available in Nigeria. Macaulay takes us to the business home of one of the numerous Nigerians doing well in business there. And it’s good and insightful interview session. Other business owners get to through insights our way. Macaulay keeps the interviews close to the subject. She doesn’t leave the way of life of Nigerians there out of her picture. This gets attention too. And so does their spirituality, their worship.
Why else do Nigerians travel to South Africa? Schooling? Yes, Macaulay takes us to the University of Pretoria. there are numerous Nigerians in South African tertiary institutions, it would seem. And interestingly, some of the Nigerians studying there have picked up one local language or the other.
And there are the issues. Yes! The stories of Nigerians in South Africa will be far from complete if the issues they face are neglected. Through the interviews and pictures and videos, Macaulay speaks about the stereotypes and ill treatment some Nigerians suffer just for being from Nigeria. The biggest of the issues being xenophobia.The Nigerian Consulate General, Uche Ajulu-Okeke would highlight these issues, misconceptions, and efforts aimed at addressing the issues. Macaulay doesn’t leave many stones resting. Through the eyes of other foreigners living in South Africa, Macaulay also shows us how Nigerians there are perceived.
Macaulay, with the documentary, makes a conscious effort not to bore her viewers. Interviews are backed with video highlights, and conversations are kept tight.Do I appreciate Macaulay’s first time effort at filmmaking? Yes, I do. For a first timer, she actually gets her sound right and shoots good pictures. And she actually gives me something I haven’t seen before—the lives of Nigerians in South Africa.
Do I think Macaulay could have done more? Oh yes! I’d have loved to see where Nigerians hangout in loads. How they see and treat each; you know, with fragments of ethnic divides back home. I’d have loved to see how much noise they make, or are allowed to make. You almost get the impression that Nigerians there do not gather enough to do Nigerian things. I might ask Macaulay of her take on this personally. And yeah, I’d ask her also; would you be showing us Nigerians living in other countries?
What has Macaulay’s film achieved? What insights is it trying to draw us to? These are things viewers should find answers to themselves. I had a rapt time watching the documentary.Yes, it is the first I’ve seen of the lives of Nigerians outside the country documented.
Written byIsaac Newton Akah, Author of the book, “Living In Gidi”