Starting in the early 1990s, Nollywood has quickly gained worldwide relevance as the world’s second most prolific film industry (almost 2,000 titles released annually) ahead of Hollywood and behind Bollywood with revenues topping $600 million annually. Historically, film in Africa had a European sensibility with parochial scenes laboriously captured on expensive celluloid, owing to the colonial funders. Nollywood, in contrast is characterized by independent cheap and quick filmmaking, capitalizing on the falling prices of digital recording equipment and meeting the demands of a continent for authentic stories that reflect the reality on the ground. An entrepreneurial rags-to-riches story, its producers are private individuals getting little or no assistance from government who make and distribute film across the continent despite infrastructure deficiencies and barriers to trade.
In October 2014, artist Iké Udé returned to Lagos, Nigeria, after three decades away, and took photographs of 64 Nollywood personalities. Udé captured an impressive cross section of the industry including renowned screen icon Genevieve Nnaji, veteran actor Richard Mofe-Damijo, established actor/director Stephanie Okereke, maverick filmmaker Kunle Afolayan, as well as the next generation of rising stars. The objective of this project is to celebrate these African celebrities in the timeless, classic, elegant style the artist is known for. Udé has also created a grand group portrait of all 64 subjects, The School of Nollywood, inspired by Raphael’s The School of Athens, 1509. A publication featuring a foreward by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an introduction by Chigozie Obioma will accompany the exhibition. Like The School of Athens, The School of Nollywood measures 16 ft 5 in x 25 ft 3 in (500 cm x 770 cm).