chapter  15
Nollywood in Lagos, Lagos in Nollywood Films: Jonathan Haynes
ByJONATHAN HAYNES
Pages 19

Concurrent with the rise of the Nollywood video fi lm industry has been a new visibility, on certain intellectual horizons, of the Lagos metropolis-or “megacity,” as it has been dubbed, as its population approaches fi fteen million. (It is projected by the United Nations to reach twenty-three million by 2015-which would make Lagos the third largest city in the world.) The city owes its new visibility to its serving as an example and case study in discussions of the world’s urban future. On the one hand, there is a genre of lurid descriptions of Lagos as an urban “apocalypse”—a term that foreign visitors seem to fi nd unavoidable, as they fi nd in Lagos the ultimate expression of anarchic urban catastrophe, environmental destruction, and human misery; its “crime, pollution, and overcrowding make it the cliché par excellence of Third World urban dysfunction.”1 On the other hand, there is a postmodernist-infl ected celebration of the coping mechanisms and creative forms of self-organization of a population whose ability to survive contradicts ordinary common sense, accompanied by an argument about the inability of conventional modes of understanding to explain what permits this survival. The leading fi gure in this trend is the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who has been conducting a study of Lagos with students in the Harvard School of Design’s Project on the City. Lagos has fi gured prominently in major art exhibitions in London (Century City, 2001); Barcelona (Africas: The Artist and the City, 2001); and, most infl uentially, Kassel, where the exhibition Documenta 11 (2002), curated by Okwui Enwezor, included a weeklong forum held in Lagos. These shows emphasize the ingenuity of people struggling to survive in the slums and informal economic sector of African cities, the manic energy that pervades city life and urban artists’ creativity.2