Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros52Dossier. Les entrepreneurs et leu...Squandermania or Nigerian urban r...

Dossier. Les entrepreneurs et leurs associations : ethnographies du secteur privé en Afrique

Squandermania or Nigerian urban renaissance? Houses, hotels and Nollywood in an African creative economy

Alexander Bud
p. 29-49


Au cours des dernières décennies, le paysage igbo a été transformé par l’essor spectaculaire de gigantesques maisons et d’hôtels. Les spécialistes du développement et les commentateurs locaux ont réagi de manière cinglante, rejetant ce phénomène comme étant du gaspillage et un investissement peu productif. Cet article propose de réévaluer ceci en considérant ces formes de consommation à travers les nouveaux concepts d’« entrepreneuriat culturel » et de « scènes de consommation ». Il retrace la manière dont les entrepreneurs culturels ont relié les espaces des maisons et des hôtels à la production de Nollywood. Cette articulation – tantôt facile et complémentaire, tantôt conflictuelle et instable – a généré de nombreuses nouvelles pratiques. Celles-ci vont d’un nouveau style architectural populaire de la maison Nollywood à la transformation des maisons et des hôtels en infrastructure de localisation des films, en passant par une culture de stars facilitant les activités commerciales dans les bars d’hôtel, jusqu’à l’émergence de types d’espaces entièrement nouveaux mêlant de manière inédite les plateaux de tournage et les résidences. La conclusion introduit le concept de la « Renaissance urbaine nigériane » pour réfléchir aux implications économiques plus larges de cette dynamique créatrice.

Haut de page

Texte intégral


  • 1 I offer my sincerest gratitude to all the key informants (named in the subsequent note) who showed (...)

1Whereas the phenomenon of capital accumulation in large houses has been growing across West Africa (Page and Sunjo, 2018), in South-Eastern Nigeria this trend has taken an extreme turn. In the Igbo hometowns, a unique landscape comprising a patchwork of mansions interspersed with older concrete houses has emerged. Abiriba in Abia State is perhaps the most celebrated example of such a “rural town” (Chukwuezi, 2001). Known as Little London as a reference to its extraordinary development, the town is lined by rows of mansions, and smaller houses are scarce (figure 1). The region’s cities have followed this trend, with politicians and other wealthy citizens building high concentrations of second homes in the state capitals of Enugu, Owerri and Asaba (Uduku, 1996). In addition to houses, the last 40 years have also seen two hotel construction booms. Sector leaders estimate that by the turn of the millennium, average daily guest numbers reached 1,000 in Enugu alone (interview with Anthony Okeke-Ojiudu, Enugu, 12 May 2017).

Figure 1 : A street in Abiriba (May 2017)

Figure 1 : A street in Abiriba (May 2017)

2While the historical roots of this phenomenon are now well-documented (Chukwuezi, 2001; Smith, 2005), this paper asks what its implications are for reshaping our ideas of development, especially in the context of an emerging creative economy. It traces how the housing and hotel sectors articulated with Nollywood – sometimes in a fractious and unstable way and at other times in a more stable and complementary manner – and how these relationships have generated innovation.

3Current New Developmentalist thinking is unambiguously pessimistic about expenditure on large houses and hospitality venues. In their influential The Politics of African Industrial Policy, L. Whitfield et al. argue that the precise problem with African economies is that growth has been driven by the rise of consumption cities, with little structural change (Whitfield et al., 2015). They suggest that real change will require a move away from consumption-orientated services like residential property, hotels, transport and wholesale/retail trade and towards the development of “manufacturing, agro-industries and knowledge-based services” (Whitfield et al., 2015: 293). This argument strongly recalls W. Arthur Lewis’ 1950s Dual Economy Model, which encouraged the shifting of investment and labour from low-productivity traditional sectors towards high-productivity modern ones (Lewis, 1954).

4In the local context, Nigerian commentators have echoed this pessimism in more colourful terms, giving house-building and consumer spending their own moniker, Squandermania (Okolo, 1994). In 1987, during the early days of the house-building boom, Anambra State went so far as to set up an eight-man Committee Against Squandermania. This was followed by the popular 1994 tract Squandermania Mentality by philosopher and theologian C.B. Okolo, in which he decries the building of “modern homes with all sorts of […] comforts” (Okolo, 1994: 11-12).

5The ideas put forward by the New Developmentalists sit within long-running debates in policy and economics about the role of housing in development. In these discussions, there has been considerable uncertainty over whether housing should be treated as a social service, an industry or a consumer good (Harris and Arku, 2006). Above all, it is as a form of consumption that the extravagant Nigerian houses stand out, but in terms of development, this is the least explored of the three aspects.

6In recent years, consumption has been the subject of considerable re-evaluation. While the economics literature situates it at the endpoint of the value chain, and defines it as the opposite of production, a range of recent approaches has questioned this definition. Contributions from other disciplines have suggested that the relationship between production and consumption is far more flexible than a traditional value chain would imply (Guyer, 2004; Bryson and Daniels, 2007; Jeannerat, 2013). Economic anthropologist R. Foster has been instrumental in synthesizing this literature in his concept of non-linear value chains, in which consumption takes on production functions (Foster, 2006).

7This new way of thinking about consumption has been incorporated into a comprehensive model by H. Jeannerat and O. Crevoisier in their work on Consumption Scenes (Jeannerat and Crevoisier, 2013). Their perspective contrasts with the conventional Territorial Innovation Model (TIM), in which producers efficiently combine production factors to create products for distant consumers. The consumption scene approach, on the other hand, emphasizes consumption as a key driver of innovation. This new perspective is focused on non-mobile sectors, in which the product is consumed at the site of production. Competitiveness therefore depends not on the mobility of products, but on the mobility of consumers, who enter the scenes as visitors or residents (Jeannerat, 2013: 376).

8Instead of such concepts as clusters and industrial districts, this model employs the notion of the scene to explore these performative compositions. Scenes are evoked in a dual sense, the first in the register of the theatrical performance, as popularized by work on the experience economy (Pine and Gilmore, 2007), and the second in the register of the music scene. A scene in this second sense comprises a community of people who share styles and sensibilities, who often live in specific neighbourhoods and convene around particular consumption patterns tied to specific genres of cultural performance.

9Although the concept of consumption scenes is useful, J. Guyer has pointed out that such forms do not emerge autonomously, but develop as a result of particular logics and entrepreneurial strategies (Guyer, 2016). In Nigeria, we can identify a scene comprising house- and hotel-building on a large scale, event industries based on the seasonal migration of the properties’ residents, and thriving creative industries (chiefly Nollywood and the music industry). A number of anthropologists working on Nigeria and Cameroon have looked at these areas individually and uncovered the logics and strategies surrounding each one (Forrest, 1994; Rowlands, 1994 and 1996; Lawuyi, 1997; Barber, 2000; Guyer, 2004; Bud, 2014).

10M. Rowlands has made a seminal contribution on the logics of house-building and decoration in West Africa (Rowlands, 1994 and 1996). He argues that building houses and moulding their aesthetics are part of a singular approach aimed at authenticating wealth and facilitating further success by attracting investment. Building a house in one’s home region and using it for consumption activities such as celebrations demonstrates communal ownership and creates a sense that the wealth is legitimate and will continue to grow.

11The particular aesthetics of the houses are a part of these efforts. While M. Rowlands emphasizes the visual, these aesthetics are actually multi-sensory, and have been variously likened to the sense of smell (Nyamnjoh, 2006) and the spiritual eye (Meyer, 2015). Borrowing a term from W. Benjamin, we might think of these multi-sensory forms as types of aura (Hansen, 2008).

12In M. Rowland’s Cameroonian case, homeowners sought to create an “imagery of celebration” or Jamano style, with bright luminous colours, flashing lights and tinsel, as well as a proliferation of western-inspired furnishings referencing foreign catalogues and hotels (Rowlands, 1994 and 1996). M. Rowlands argues that this aura produces a sense of overpowering awesomeness that is so arresting that it shuts off or brings closure from other worlds, hypnotizing the visitor and putting aside any doubts about the legitimacy of the wealth. Similarly in Igboland creating a scene in such an aura has been a common motivation for building or redecorating a house (Bud, 2019: 75-80).

13However, these homes have an ambiguity that can convey the opposite sense – that the wealth has been generated through occult or other corrupt practices. As B. Meyer argues in a parallel case, the physical forms of houses can themselves be seen as directly making money – conjuring it into existence, as in a fetish (Meyer, 2011). We can thus talk of two competing auras imbuing house-centred scenes: one money-authenticating and the other money-making. This particular tension is widely experienced across West Africa. In this issue, for example, C. Vampo shows how women in Togo have to strike a balance in choosing their clothes and interior decorations (Vampo, this issue).

14With regard to the entertainment business in Nigeria, K. Barber has made an essential contribution on the travelling theatre – a precursor to Nollywood – in her kaleidoscopic The Generation of Plays (Barber, 2000). Although this work is feted in African popular culture studies, it has not yet also been recognized as the first comprehensive account of cultural entrepreneurship in a West African creative milieu. In its pages, K. Barber reveals the complex of channels through which theatre companies engaged with built forms and their wealthy owners.

15These links operated on multiple levels. First, fictional domestic spaces – often belonging to the wealthy – were ubiquitous as a key setting for the plays’ narratives and were especially integral in terms of their moral commentaries on wealth. This pattern has persisted, perhaps even more strongly, into the Nollywood filmmaking age.

16Second, K. Barber emphasized the importance of real-life built forms as providing the staging infrastructure that was the “sine qua non of production” (Barber, 2000: 122). Identifying suitable venues – such as hotels and community centres – and negotiating favourable terms was a critical challenge for the company as it constituted a vast drain on its resources. Since the time of K. Barber’s research both staging and lodging infrastructures in the form of houses and hotels have been greatly enriched. The interactive role played by these potent new infrastructures in the commercial development of Nollywood is one of the key themes of the present article.

17Third, theatre entrepreneurs depended on the patronage of the same wealthy social strata on which they were commenting – and which owned many of the venues they used – as a critical resource for their productions. Show business therefore involved connections that went beyond those between performers and audience. Crucially, these third-party supporters provided sponsorship or free or discounted inputs. In its early days, the theatre company carried great prestige because it was an amateur troupe and attracted free labour and contributions from “big important salaried people” (Barber, 2000: 42). We shall see similar alliances reappearing in the Nollywood age, with filmmakers developing a dependent relationship with homeowners.

18In addition to M. Rowlands’ and K. Barber’s focused studies, other scholars have developed a broader concept of African cultural entrepreneurship (Röschenthaler and Schulz, 2015). Drawing partly on this work, I take cultural entrepreneurship to mean the creation of non-linear connections between the value chains of different cultural goods. In many cases, this specifically relates to linking the production function of one cultural good to the consumption or distribution function of another.

19There are several examples of this phenomenon in the Nollywood literature. The most often recounted is the story of Kenneth Nnebue jumping from being a distributor of blank videotapes to being a producer of the first Nollywood films (which he then recorded on his tapes) (Bud, 2014). In a less-known case, F. Shaka has shown that videographers who had previously worked in private houses to record parties and other consumption events reapplied their skills to become the first Nollywood cinematographers (Shaka, 2003). In this article, we see a cognate dynamic, with Nollywood producers striking a resonance with the consumption forms of houses and hotels.

Structure of the argument

20This article traces how Nollywood became entwined with the housing and hotel sectors, and reveals how this relationship generated innovations in the consumption scene. Several of the dynamics identified by M. Rowlands and K. Barber are central to its narrative, including homeowners’ strategies to enhance the houses’ aura of money authentication and filmmakers’ strategies to secure shooting and lodging venues and build relationships with third-party supporters.

21The main actors in this story are film production companies, location owners – including those of both houses and hotels – and location managers. Location managers are important as they constitute an interface between the other two groups. Enugu has become well-known for the professionalism of its location managers, who are organized in a regional chapter of the Creative Designer’s Guild of Nigeria (CDGN).

22The article interprets the development of these relationships since the mid-1990s, with the first part looking at the interactions between Nollywood and housing, and the second with hotels. Each part covers three periods relating to different phases in the relationships broadly corresponding to the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, the mid-2000s to mid-2010s and the mid-2010s to the present. Drawing on P. Borsay’s original 1989 concept, the conclusion will reflect on the role of houses, hotels and creative industries in development by introducing the idea of a Nigerian Urban Renaissance.

  • 2 I would like to thank the following key informants for their enormous and generous contribution to (...)

23The paper is based on fieldwork conducted in Igboland and Lagos between June 2015 and June 2017. The fieldwork sites included Enugu, Asaba, Onitsha, Umuoji and Abiriba. The research involved ethnographies with the CDGN and in the rural town of Umuoji, interviews with 22 key informants, and 30 additional interviews.2

The Nollywood House Scene

The emergence of a Nollywood house scene

24In the mid-1990s, the consumption space of the Igbo home came together with the production of Nollywood movies, as Enugu homeowners started to welcome film crews. In the introduction, we saw how homeowners had already attempted to shape their houses in an aura of money-authentication. With the arrival of Nollywood, they saw an opportunity to broadcast their wealth to a wider audience. By opening up their houses to the Nollywood lens, they demonstrated that they were not motivated by financial need and had no cause for impropriety (figure 2). For example, Benson Okonkwo, a wealthy Enugu homeowner, allowed filmmakers in to show that he came from a wealthy background and was not working out of a need for cash, “[I wanted to show that] I was born with a silver spoon. I wanted them to come [inside the house] and see my background” (interview with Benson Okonkwo, Enugu, 5 May 2017).

Figure 2 : Interior of a Nollywood house (Asaba, December 2015)

Figure 2 : Interior of a Nollywood house (Asaba, December 2015)

25Nollywood’s reflexivity was thus important as it allowed location homeowners to open up their homes to the local public, thereby accentuating the aura of money authentication. This dynamic also resulted in the emulation of these houses’ aesthetics, with Nollywood-style houses popping up throughout Igboland. Such emulation was especially popular among Nigerian expatriates looking to build a fashionable house back home. Some took their designs from the films’ still frames, while others contacted the location managers to obtain the architect’s contact details.

26These acts of emulation were so widespread that the architectural features of the film locations soon entered the local architectural vocabulary. Awka location manager Piccolo Oye illustrated this trend with the example of a large bungalow in Asaba that was used as a location for the movie More than a Widow. The film became a blockbuster and Piccolo reported three or four identical bungalows appearing in Awka over the next few years and sightings elsewhere in Anambra state. In general, it was the more imposing location houses that had the most significant impact on architectural fashions. The proliferation of one architectural feature in particular – the front-column-pediment structure with balcony – was closely linked to its appearance in films (figure 3).

27From the point of view of the film producers, the houses contributed by providing shots of exteriors and interiors. Homeowners were most forthcoming in offering the exteriors and regularly allowed access to living rooms, but generally refused use of bedrooms. Congenial relationships with the homeowners also contributed to the comfort of these working environments. Many were hospitable to the crews, preparing meals free of charge, holding small parties and inviting their friends to join in. Filmmakers also benefitted from the homeowners’ absence, as the houses were not their primary residences. In this sense, the buildings were valuable pieces of capital that had been working massively under capacity until the filmmakers arrived.

Figure 3 : Nollywood House with front-column-pediment structure with balcony (Asaba, December 2015)

Figure 3 : Nollywood House with front-column-pediment structure with balcony (Asaba, December 2015)

A crisis in the relationship

28We have traced how Nollywood production articulated with the consumption form of houses. From about 2008, a multi-stranded crisis developed in this relationship, with many wealthy homeowners – especially politicians – withdrawing their homes. In response to filming enquiries, these owners would now act almost fearfully, tipping location managers just to make the film people go away.

29Rather than consolidating houses as money-authenticating forms, Nollywood seemed to tip them into being money-making ones. Showing the homes often had the opposite effects to the owners’ original intention as fundamental pre-existing ambiguities were aggravated by Nollywood’s own aesthetic ambiguity. House-owners therefore rapidly switched from revelation (giving Nollywood access to their houses) to concealment.

30Initially, Nollywood houses had been seen as an effective way to project wealth, but homeowners now began to worry that the Nollywood presence might be interpreted as a sign of financial desperation and therefore as a money-making form. This was partly fuelled by an awareness that Nollywood was increasingly a commercial business rather than an amateur pursuit. In the early days, the filmmakers had been poor university students to whom the Big Men were happy to give a leg up, but over time they had become prosperous celebrities.

31As a result, homeowners became concerned that opening up their houses for filming might feed suspicions that they were motivated by a desperate need for cash. An enlightening exchange with Benson Okonkwo confounded my initial assumption that the main risk of revealing these lavish interiors was of appearing too rich:

— B. Okonkwo: [My father] is a big man, so he feels like it’s a shameful thing for them to be using his house for locations.
— A. Bud: Is that because it’s not good to look too opulent...?
— B. Okonkwo: [interjects] No! [It’s not good to look] too poor! He feels his house should be his privacy, and that the money is not big enough for him, and that he’s bigger than that. (interview with Benson Okonkwo, Enugu, 5 May 2017)

32The second aspect of Nollywood houses that turned out to be money-making rather than authenticating was their association with occultism. Whereas the homeowners’ original intention had been to open up their homes to allay fears of impropriety, their relationship with filmmakers actually had the opposite effect. One fundamental issue was that the Nollywood industry itself – and especially its star culture – was prone to flipping into the money-making form. The suspiciously sudden emergence of Nollywood stars as if from nowhere evoked the similarly glitzy 1970s arrival of the petro-Naira (Barber, 1982). Alongside the films’ occult subject-matter, this contributed to an association of the industry with juju (Tsika, 2015: 7; Haynes, 2016: 18; Meyer, 2015).

33Actors and filmmakers fuelled the occultic suspicions themselves. Director Kenechukwu Okafor, for example, argued that there was “a whole lot of competition in the industry, so some people will [turn to the occult], to be above some people... so that they can rise to stardom” (personal communication with Director Kenechukwu Okafor, 23 April 2018). In addition to the stars sudden appearance, their often surprisingly rapid exit from the limelight contributed to these rumours. From around 2010, the older members of the first generation of Nollywood stars were entering their 60s and several died in quick succession in apparently mysterious circumstances. In addition to the film people’s activities off-set, the scenes within the movies were also considered to be troubling. The numerous depictions of diabolic practices created uncertainty over whether the actors and filmmakers had in fact fallen under the spell of the devil (Meyer, 2015: 178). All of these concerns have been reflected in a rather self-incriminating meta-genre of films depicting Nollywood people involved in juju practices. The 2013 film Devil’s Contract, for example, shows the industry as being deeply intertwined with occultism and its stars as belonging to secret societies.

34In a somewhat similar vein, opening up houses through filmmaking might also project an appearance of corruption. The emergence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) saw huge crackdowns on opposition and out-of-favour politicians on charges of graft, leading to a culture of fear. Often the mere existence of cash or lavish material wealth inside a house was taken as sufficient evidence for arrest and confiscation of property, as well as salacious leaks to media outlets. Homeowners were particularly concerned about the tendency for wealthy diaspora Nigerians watching the films abroad to become outraged and tip off the EFCC.

35While the withdrawal of houses was the main driver for the breakdown of the relationship, film producers with increasingly large and demanding productions were also becoming dissatisfied with the houses that were still available. In particular, they were frustrated by the severe time restrictions that owners placed on the length of shoots. Location manager Chiamaka recalled several stressful situations in which the relationship with the owner frayed due to a feeling that the crew had outstayed its welcome.

Reactions to the crisis: the commodification of domestic settings and the rise of a new category of spaces

36The challenges posed by this situation prompted a series of innovations. While the Nollywood house scene was fracturing, the filmmakers’ need for locations continued to grow. One result was the commodification of domestic space in Enugu, as homeowners demanded high fees for its use. Their changing attitude was often described in terms of becoming more “exposed” or educated. House-owner Benson Okonkwo described this process:

When they used to come for locations, we would allow them to shoot, but when we became intelligent and knew you could make money from this, we started asking for money and the price... [whistles with increasing pitch and volume] hwoo-yooo! (interview with Benson Okonkwo, Enugu, 5 May 2017)

37The commodification process proceeded through a series of thresholds. At its beginning, homeowners provided locations free of charge, and sometimes even added hospitality. This was followed by a transitionary period during which they expected token payments. By around 2008, securing a location involved a conventional market-style bargaining process: “You sit down with the owner: it’s now a business thing [knocks knuckle on the table]!” (interview with Remi Ajibua-Ajayi, Lagos, 27 May 2017). By 2017, the price per day for a good location in Enugu was quoted by location managers and house owners at 30,000-40,000 naira (100-120 euros), rising to 50,000 naira (150 euros) for the most desirable houses.

38As Nollywood’s relationships broke down in Enugu, new ones developed elsewhere, with many productions moving to similar location houses in nearby Asaba. Further afield, the industry established a new kind of connection with the booming housing estate sector in Lagos. Perhaps the most innovative of these relationships was with the exclusive Amen Estate, which opened in Lekki in 2008. The estate’s marketing function became entwined with the Nollywood production function, creating an entirely new type of space that melded aspects of film studios and living residences in a novel way.

39Before Nollywood started filming in Amen, the owners of the estate were having great trouble selling the plots. The main problem was that potential buyers, many of whom lived abroad, questioned whether the estate was actually real. The owner, Babatunde Gbadamosi, would send marketing material with photographs, only to receive accusations that the estate was either not in Nigeria or was somehow made up. One potential client asserted that he knew the estate and that it was on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia!

40In an inspired act of cultural entrepreneurship, Gbadamosi began to allow film crews to shoot and lodge in houses until they were sold. When they were taken, he would add more properties to the development on a rolling basis. This innovation proved to be a turning point for the estate – amazingly, in fact, it succeeded in convincing buyers that the estate really existed:

Getting Nollywood and the music industry to come shoot their movies and their musical videos here was our way of getting people to realize that actually you know what [...] this is actually real [...] you know, these houses are actually there and it’s actually in Nigeria! (interview with Babatunde Gbadamosi, Lagos, 30 May 2017)

41Ironically, incorporating the estate in Nollywood fantasy proved its reality. This constituted a new type of Nollywood house scene in which the money-authenticating aura was truly effective.

42As factor inputs into Nollywood productions, these estates offered several advantages. They provided a high-end ambience at a relatively low price, and often free electricity. Whereas Nollywood crews had previously needed to carry mobile generators and pay for fuel, here they could connect to the estate’s grid.

43The relationship with Nollywood also had a significant impact on the interior decoration of the houses. When the estate was first built, all the rooms were in beige and neutral pastel colours. However, through a Nollywood location manager’s influence, some rooms were given bright, distinctive matching colour schemes for the walls, bedspreads and soft furnishings (figure 4). This was necessary to provide strong visual cues that scenes were taking place in different rooms. The features turned out to be attractive to clients when they came to view former location houses, and the estate owner thus decided to incorporate this aesthetic into all new homes built in Amen.

Figure 4 : Colour-coordinated room in Amen Estate (Lagos, May 2017)

Figure 4 : Colour-coordinated room in Amen Estate (Lagos, May 2017)

The Nollywood hotel scene

The growth of the Nollywood hotel scene

44A distinctive feature of Nollywood houses is that many are not the owners’ primary residences. These properties can be understood through an insightful literature on second homes (Coppock, 1977; Hall and Müller, 2004) that suggests that they have more the characteristics of tourist spaces than of ordinary residential accommodation. Like tourist spaces, they are integral to the seasonal migration of wealthy visitors, providing a boost to local services and consumption activities. The houses can therefore be seen to sit on a continuum with hotels, which are the focus of the following discussion.

  • 3 A scattering of even earlier establishments had existed. These included the Eastern-Region-owned Ho (...)

45In Igboland, Enugu was the first city to become a major centre for the hotel industry. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, a first generation of hotels emerged in the city, including the Zodiac, Modotels and Hotel Metropole.3 These hotels were the most prominent components of much larger business groups, often owned by well-established Eastern dynasties. Following the success of the early hotels, a second generation – such as The Dannic, Gemini Inn, Hotel Cordial and Astoria Guest House – emerged in the mid-1980s.

46Whereas the earlier generation of hotels had in reality been an outward manifestation of wealth (an aura of money-authentication), many new-entrant hotel owners construed them as the source of all their wealth (an aura of money-making). Such new owners “assumed that all this money that the family was making came from the hotel, so they said ‘you know what? I’m going to build my hotel too!’” (interview with Buffy Okeke-Ojiudu, Enugu, 20 April 2017). Consequently this second generation of hotel owners – lacking the social recognition of their predecessors – entered the industry, resulting in an aura of money-making. A. Apter describes these new hotel builders as “nouveaux riches” outside the old hierarchy of families of “colonial civil servants and lawyers with school ties to London and Oxbridge” (Apter, 2005: 231).

47The money-making aura of the new hotels was exaggerated through a series of occult-related scandals that hit the hospitality industry in the 1990s, the most notorious of which was the “Otokoto Incident” (Odoemene, 2012). The Otokoto Hotel was one of the leading hotels in Igboland when the beheaded body of an abducted 11-year old boy was discovered in its grounds in September 1996. In the years since, the word Otokoto has transitioned into a popular folk term to refer to hotels’ general juju-powers. Although this caused trepidation among the clientele, it also appeared to contribute to a surge in the number of hoteliers – who were seemingly attracted to the perceived opportunity – starting new hotels from the late 1990s.

48Parallel to the Nollywood house scene, a comparable relationship emerged between Nollywood and hotels. From the mid-1990s, location managers built close relationships with hotel owners and managers. The Naiko and Macdavos were amongst the most popular, and were used for shooting and lodging film staff. These hotel owners considered the main benefit of dealing with Nollywood to be the block-booking of rooms. Under these arrangements, filmmakers would pay hoteliers upfront (80-100% of the total) for a number of rooms to cover a set period. Aside from block-booking, Nollywood was a relatively peripheral part of the hotel scene. As discussed by S. Cissokho (this issue), hotels were important social hubs, and actors were initially amongst the least noteworthy people in scenes inhabited by Big Men and other celebrated figures.

49On the other side – in terms of input into the filmmaking process – hotels had become crucial both for shooting and lodging. For shooting, hotel locations were primarily used to depict bedroom scenes, although it must be acknowledged that these rooms were considered less convincing than domestic bedrooms. They had certain benefits, however, both in terms of efficiency and factor availability. While house-owners would often impose awkward restrictions on film crews, hotels provided a more flexible shooting environment.

50Hotels became even more crucial for lodging. Filmmaking schedules were so tight that a barracks-style system of lodging film staff in hotels promoted logistical efficiency and workplace discipline. To ensure that staff did not run late, a producer would send a vehicle to the hotel in the morning to take everyone to the shooting location. At the height of filming, hotel accommodation would typically be needed for a total of between 15-30 people for two weeks. As a proportion of total production costs, lodging costs were high, taking up to 35% of the budget.

Convergence and divergence

51Starting in around 2003, Nollywood was becoming more entangled in the hotel scene. Venues such as the Nico and Macdavos that engaged with Nollywood were from the second generation of hotels. We have already seen that (more so than houses) this generation of hotels shared with Nollywood a tendency towards the money-making aura, and as a result there was no equivalent crisis in the sectors’ relationship.

52In particular, Nollywood’s star culture proved to be complementary to the hotels’ activities. In the “big boys’ clubs” of the hotel bars, the prestige of actors ballooned. By the early 2000s, Big Men – who were known regionally – paled in comparison to actors who had achieved continent-wide acclaim. Whereas the actors had previously been the ones chasing connections in the hotel bars, the roles were now reversed: the Big Men were now courting them to join their financing networks. Actor Olu Jacobs observed that the Big Men were now “begging to see [him], […] that all of a sudden, the very people that who wouldn’t talk to him, he’s now somebody and they are talking to [him]” (interview with Anthony Okeke-Ojiudu, Enugu, 12 May 2017).

53Apart from sealing useful connections, the lodging of actors was now a valuable asset for attracting business to hotels. The presence of actors at a bar attracted many ordinary customers who would want to meet, take photos alongside, or simply see the stars. Stars attracted other guests to follow them to a hotel, a process described by hotelier Boniface Uchechukwu as “gingering” them to come (interview with Boniface Uchechukwu, Enugu, 17 May 2017). This was especially important for hotels that were looking to develop as event venues, as associations with stars proved an effective way of attracting wedding events.

54As a production input, hotels continued to provide rooms for lodging Nollywood staff – often at increasingly high discounts as they came to appreciate Nollywood’s other benefits. Several, such as the Dontell and the Konik, specialized in this function, and during this period, mega-productions emerged that required longer hotel stays of up to one month in the cases of Idemili and The Calabash.

55Unlike the comfortable relationship between hotels and Nollywood lodging, the interaction with Nollywood shooting was becoming somewhat problematic. While hotels appreciated the presence of actors, they were more ambivalent about the rolling video cameras, which had begun to disturb their guests. Several establishments that had previously allowed it, such as the English Hotel, the Clubhouse and La Virgin Hotels, stopped giving permission. Likewise, film productions were becoming bigger and far more exacting in their specifications and hotel rooms were therefore becoming less desirable as sets.

New forms: evolution of lodging hotels, revolution in shooting hotels

56The hotels that were already specializing in film lodging deepened their relationship with Nollywood from around 2012. Several, such as the Media Royal and the Toscana, now focused their entire businesses primarily on lodging Nollywood guests. As composed scenes with a money-making aura, they were domains in which the actors were off-duty (lodging but not shooting). Top stars patronized the bars, sat at the pools and held celebrations, drawing other important clients to the facilities. As hoteliers were embedded within these star spaces, some began to feel like film directors – as “part and parcel” (interview with Prince Anthony Okoli, Enugu, 8 May 2017) of Nollywood – and decided to enter film production themselves.

57The Media Royal owner, Michael Amadi, founded the hotel for general-purpose hospitality in 2009. For the first two years, he received minimal custom from Nollywood. However, in 2011 the twin-sister actress-producers Chidiebere and Chidinma Aneke lodged at the hotel with their cast and crew, attracting several more productions over the following months. At this point M. Amadi decided to target the sector, offering filmmakers a discount of up to 60%. In the years that followed, many productions lodged at the Media Royal and it became known as a Nollywood hotel. It can lodge up to four crews at a time in its 26 rooms, and there have been three-month continuous periods in which Nollywood people have booked every room. Typically, each production’s staff stays at the hotel for around two weeks, with the longest stretching to 60 days for the film Idemili.

58As Amadi’s Media Royal Hotel became a known lodging centre for Nollywood, its restaurant, pool and bar were transformed into a famous social hub for Nollywood actors. Amadi was particularly proud that top stars gave their seal of approval to his barbecue, gleefully stating that “Ramsey Noah likes our fish!”. As a result, many fans patronized his bar – “even if they don’t have a word with [the stars], they will be looking at them, discussing them” – and some would ask to take photos together (interview with Michael Amadi, Enugu, 21 April 2017).

59By 2013, Amadi was himself feeling increasingly attracted to film production, and he received further encouragement from the filmmakers lodging in his hotel. He also realized that he already owned the most expensive filmmaking input. Consequently, he became a hotelier-filmmaker, launching Royal Pictures in the same year and using the hotel to lodge almost all his productions, totalling 15-20 movies by May 2017. Further costs are saved by utilizing all the hotel’s facilities, including the kitchen, to avoid outsourced catering costs.

60These hotels have now established formal associations with Nollywood stars, whose names and faces adorn their marquees (figure 5). The associations are exaggerated through a haze of ambiguity, with some signs implying that the hotels are run by movie characters. They go far beyond simple product endorsements and constitute an emergent Nollywood cultural branding. Superstar Nollywood characters such as Mr Ibu (whose real name is John Okafor) and Osuofia (Nkem Owoh) channel the industry’s heritage as they are anchored in the same neighbourhoods as their sponsored hotels and often hang out in them. These relationships have helped the hotels develop their other functions. The Toscana, for example, uses Mr Ibu imagery to market its range of event services, including beauty pageants, concerts and comedy performances.

Figure 5 : Signage of D-King’s Planet Suites featuring star actor Osuofia (Enugu, May 2017)

Figure 5 : Signage of D-King’s Planet Suites featuring star actor Osuofia (Enugu, May 2017)

61During this period, the problematic relationship between filmmakers and shooting hotels led to a series of innovations. One creative response to the hotel shooting problem has been to make entirely new types of spaces. In a similar vein to Amen Estate, these meld aspects of film studios and hospitality venues. Several filmmakers have built their own specially-designed hotels to remove the costs of shooting and lodging. As of June 2017, there were at least four such hotels in Enugu: The Dematel (OJ Productions), D-King’s Planet Suites (Onye Eze Productions), the Lanic Hotel (Magic Movies) and Belview Hotel (Annex Movies), as well as two more in Onitsha/Asaba (Ernest-Samuel, 2017; Bud, 2019). They are used for shooting and lodging the producer’s own cast and crew; for renting out to other filmmakers; and for ordinary hotel guests.

62Since its creation in 2013, D-King’s Planet Suites alone has housed between 30 and 40 of Onye Eze’s own productions, as well as over 30 from other companies. There was considerable innovation in the interior design and colour combinations of such hotels, as they were tailored for shooting and had a strong film aesthetic. In D-King’s Planet Suites, each floor has its own colour scheme, including split-colour corridors and distinctive room interiors (figure 6). This makes it possible to shoot an entire fictional house (with distinctively identifiable rooms and hallways) in the hotel. The colours used for the curtains and bedspreads are also bright and well-coordinated in a fashionable Nollywood style.

Figure 6 : Split-colour corridors in D-King’s Planet Suites (Enugu, May 2017)

Figure 6 : Split-colour corridors in D-King’s Planet Suites (Enugu, May 2017)

63In a similar development, Nollywood filmmakers have also moved into hospitality spaces that cater for shooting needs outside the glamour genre: including the epic, village and campus movies. They have done so through allying with Africa-fantasy-themed hospitality venues and resorts, resulting in the transformation of these spaces into melded film-studio-event-centre-lodging venues.

64Africa-themed resorts have existed in South-Eastern Nigerian for at least 30 years, but it has only been in the last decade that resonance with Nollywood has begun. A leading example is the Ofu-Obi African Centre, which has traditional-style bungalows, thatched meeting spaces, and curtains in ethnic materials.

65When Ofu-Obi was initially created in 2003, it targeted Christian guests looking for a venue for conferences, celebrations and spiritual retreats. This was the case until 2013, when the film producer Chidi Okeh persuaded the centre to welcome Nollywood productions, resulting in dramatic changes to the resort’s operations. Since then, the centre’s style and sprawling estate have provided a versatile filming environment, and it has begun to take on the feel of a film studio. Its design corresponds closely with that of the epic film genre, which Meyer argues “creates new traditional culture in a freehand manner” (Meyer, 2015: 281). In this form, materials and patterns associated with “Africanness” are used in attractive and sanitized new ways to evoke a sense of tradition without directly referencing particular tribal customs. The “traditional” style makes it suitable for the Epic and Royal genres of movies, as well as the village scenes of glamour movies.

66Nollywood does not only use Ofu-Obi Africa’s facilities; it has also remoulded them and contributed to the growth of new functions. While the centre previously had a consistent “traditional” theme, Nollywood has pushed for it to be glamourized in the bungalow interiors so that they are more suitable for shooting contemporary bedroom scenes as well. As a result, the Yoruba Agbada curtains were replaced with standard contemporary ones manufactured in China and South Korea and the period iron-framed beds by fashionable new upholstered ones.

67Film production has also stimulated the growth of new functions at Ofu-Obi Africa, inspired by the glamour of aestheticized tradition. Following the arrival of Nollywood, the centre became a popular venue for themed photo-shoots, which are now an essential part of its business and include shoots for wedding invitations, birthdays and publicity shots. The style of these shoots mimics that of the films, including models made up in the epic, royal and contemporary glamour genres.


68This article has traced a narrative in which cultural entrepreneurs have connected the consumption spaces of houses and hotels with Nollywood production. This integration, at times easy and complementary, and at others fractious and unstable, has generated manifold new forms.

69The entanglement of the two sectors has had significant implications for the local urban environment, contributing to the emergence of a distinctive Igbo landscape through the widespread emulation of Nollywood Houses, and encouraging the commodification of domestic space. Owners reassessed their homes as valuable capital that was working massively under capacity and might generate income.

70Nollywood’s engagement with houses and hotels has also seen the flourishing of key linkages. Filmmakers made great use of the houses as shooting locations, and also used hotels both for this purpose and as the main lodging venues for cast and crew. Nollywood’s star culture complemented the activities that were already under way at the hotels’ bars and enhanced them. These spaces for off-duty stars drew in other celebrated figures and were a fertile arena for coordinating relationships for general business financing. There were also specific financial ties between Nollywood and hotels, with producers and hoteliers using their capital to enter each other’s businesses.

71Finally, the relationship has resulted in considerable innovation through the emergence of new types of space that melded film sets and living residences in novel ways. These built forms offered new potentials in each of their film, housing and hospitality functions. Each was (re)designed so that it had far greater possibilities for shooting and lodging than a standard property. Likewise, the hotel and housing sectors benefitted greatly, with Amen becoming one of Nigerian real estate’s most high-profile successes, and D-King’s and Ofu-Obi breaking new ground in hospitality.

72From a New Developmentalism perspective, one might argue that although there may be cross-fertilization between Nollywood and built forms, this hardly represents a plausible approach for national development. Although such an objection might be well intended, my research shows how this perspective would ignore key economic dynamics in Nigeria and beyond.

73Inspired by the wider historiography of industrialization, I propose the notion of a Nigerian Urban Renaissance. The concept of an English Urban Renaissance was elaborated by P. Borsay in 1989. In this work, he made a compelling case that the key to understanding the Industrial Revolution was through the transformation of the urban environment in the preceding century. In particular, P. Borsay (1989) demonstrated that the intersection of recreational activities and built forms in such spaces as inns, assembly halls and tea rooms was a major engine of growth. They served as fashionable stages of consumption for commodities like food and drink, as well as for an ever-expanding range of new recreational activities. These spaces also had specific vertical links with the wider economy, especially in consumer-good value chains. The maturation of the inn, for example, was the driving force behind the growth of the brewing and malting industries.

74Those familiar with the current situation in Nigeria might object to the idea of a Nigerian Urban Renaissance at a time of economic crisis when many lack access to even basic housing. However, this situation is entirely consistent with P. Borsay’s original English Urban Renaissance. The approach is not supposed to imply an uncritical celebration of all things urban. Indeed, the original concept was created to recognize a dynamic of traumatic structural change involving deindustrialization in well-established provincial towns that transformed themselves into specialist consumption centres. While new opportunities arose in commercial and recreational services, many manufacturing jobs were lost and there was a rise in inequality. This is very much the dynamic we see today in Nigerian consumption cities.

75As a crystallization of my argument, the Nigerian Urban Renaissance therefore illustrates how consumption forms like houses, hotels and Nollywood play a significant role in economic development. Indeed, we have seen how interactive circulations between producers and consumers have incubated distinctive new landscapes, buildings and film styles in the Nigerian creative economy. This process has already contributed to the competitiveness of individual products and – if assembled as a regional or national imaginary – has the potential to contribute to broader industrial development.

Haut de page


Apter A., 2005, The pan-African nation: oil and the spectacle of culture in Nigeria, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Barber K., 1982, “Popular reactions to the Petro-Naira”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, n° 20, pp. 431-450.

Barber K., 2000, The generation of plays: Yorùbá popular life in theater, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Borsay P., 1989, The English urban renaissance: culture and society in the provincial town 1660-1770, Oxford, Clarendon.

Bryson J.R., Daniels P.W. (eds.), 2007, The handbook of service industries, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Bud A., 2014, “The end of Nollywood’s Guilded Age? Marketers, the state and the struggle for distribution”, Critical African Studies, n° 6, pp. 91-121.

Bud A., 2019, “In search of the Nigerian pastoral: Nollywood and the Nigerian creative-industrial system”, Doctoral thesis, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 286 p.

Chukwuezi B., 2001, “Through thick and thin: Igbo rural-urban circularity, identity and investment”, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, n° 19, pp. 55-66.

Coppock J.T. (ed.), 1977, Second homes: curse or blessing?, Oxford, Pergamon.

Ernest-Samuel G.C., 2017, “The role and significance of Multichoice and its Africa Magic channels in the development of Nollywood”, Doctoral thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 289 p.

Forrest T., 1994, The advance of African capital: the growth of Nigerian private enterprise, Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia.

Foster R.J., 2006, “Tracking globalization: commodities and value in motion”, in C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Küchler, M. Rowlands and P. Spyer (eds), Handbook of Material Culture, London, SAGE, pp. 285-302.

Guyer J.I., 2004, Marginal gains: monetary transactions in Atlantic Africa, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Guyer J.I., 2016, Legacies, logics, logistics: essays in the anthropology of the platform economy, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Hall C.M., Müller D.K. (eds.), 2004, Tourism, mobility, and second homes: between elite landscape and common ground, Bristol, Channel View Publications.

Hansen M.B., 2008, “Benjamin’s aura”, Critical Inquiry, n° 34, pp. 336-75.

Harris R., Arku G., 2006, “Housing and economic development: the evolution of an idea since 1945”, Habitat International, n° 30, pp. 1007-1017.

Haynes J., 2016, Nollywood: the creation of Nigerian film genres, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Jeannerat H., 2013, “Staging experience, valuing authenticity: towards a market perspective on territorial development”, European Urban and Regional Studies, n° 20, pp. 370-384.

Jeannerat H., Crevoisier O., 2013, “Cultural activities in territorial development the case of cultural and creative enterprises in the Swiss watchmaking industry”, in L. Lazzeretti (ed.), Creative industries and innovation in Europe, London, Routledge, pp. 232-250.

Lawuyi O., 1997, “The Political Economy of Video Marketing in Ogbomoso, Nigeria”, Africa, n° 67, pp. 476-490.

Lewis W.A., 1954, “Economic development with unlimited supplies of labour”, The Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies, n° 22, pp. 139-191.

Meyer B., 2011, “Self-Contained. Glamorous Houses and Modes of Personhood in Ghanaian Video-Movies”, in A. Cassiman (ed.), Architectures of Belonging: Inhabiting Worlds in Rural West Africa, Antwerp, BAI Pub., pp. 153-69.

Meyer B., 2015, Sensational movies: video, vision, and Christianity in Ghana, Oakland, University of California Press.

Nyamnjoh F.B., 2006, A nose for money, Nairobi, East African Publishers.

Odoemene A., 2012, “Fighting corruption without the state: civil society agency and the ‘Otokoto Saga’”, Journal of Historical Sociology, n° 25, pp. 475-503.

Okolo C.B., 1994, Squandermania mentality reflections on Nigerian culture: educational philosophy for Nigerians, Enugu, University Trust Publishers.

Page B., Sunjo E., 2018, “Africa’s middle class: building houses and constructing identities in the small town of Buea, Cameroon”, Urban Geography, n° 39, pp. 75-103.

Pine B.J., Gilmore J.H., 2007, The experience economy: work is theatre & every business a stage, Boston, Harvard Business School Press.

Röschenthaler U., Schulz D. (eds.), 2015, Cultural entrepreneurship in Africa, London, Routledge.

Rowlands M., 1994, “The material culture of success: ideals and life cycles in Cameroon”, in J. Friedman (ed.), Consumption and identity, London, Routledge, pp. 106-119.

Rowlands M., 1996, “The consumption of an African modernity”, in M.J. Arnoldi and K.L. Hardin (eds.), African material culture, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, pp. 188-213.

Shaka F., 2003, “Rethinking the Nigerian video film industry: technological fascination and the domestication game”, in F. Ogunleye (ed.), African video film today, Manzini, Academic Publishers, pp. 41-50.

Smith D.J., 2005, “Legacies of Biafra: marriage, ‘Home People’ and reproduction among the Igbo of Nigeria”, Africa, n° 75, pp. 30-45.

Uduku O., 1996, “The urban fabric of Igbo architecture in south-eastern Nigeria in the 1990s”, Habitat International, n° 20, pp. 191-202.

Tsika N.A., 2015, Nollywood stars: media and migration in West Africa and the diaspora, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Whitfield L., Therkildsen O., Buur L., Kjaer A.M. (eds.), 2015, The politics of African industrial policy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Haut de page


1 I offer my sincerest gratitude to all the key informants (named in the subsequent note) who showed great openness and welcomed me into the South-Eastern community. I also received outstanding support from my advisors and research assistants in Igboland: Anthony Okeke-Ojiudu, Peggy Ekene Godwin, Victoria Okpara, Stephen Ikeogu, Kennechukwu Okafor and Peter Eze. The following academics have also given me very helpful advice and comments, and have been generous in sharing their work: my former supervisors David Wield and José-María Muñoz, Ola Uduku, Françoise Ugochukwu, Paul Nugent, Giles Mohan, Mrs Chinwe Sam-Amobi, Okey Nduka, Ben Page, Ben Lampert and Alessandro Jedlowski. I would also like to thank Thomas Bierschenk, Marie-Christine Polge and the APAD editors for being helpful and industrious in editing this article to a high standard in excellent time.

2 I would like to thank the following key informants for their enormous and generous contribution to this project. Location managers: Mrs Chiamaka Okorie, Mrs Sylvan Ugwumadu, Chimeze Bright, Chinedu Arinze, Piccolo Chidese Oye, Mrs Toni Ikechi and Mrs Remi Ajibua-Ajayi. Hotels owners/managers: Anthony Okeke-Ojiudu, Martins Onyebuchi Onyemaobi, Mrs Julie Obiagele Okenwa, Michael Adigwe, Buffy Okeke-Ojiudu, Michael Amadi, Boniface Uchechukwu and Anthony Okoli. Homeowners: Babatunde Gbadamosi, Benson Okonkwo, Mrs Shiela Egemonye, Alex Egbonike and Mrs Mary Ukaego Odili. Filmmakers: Kennechukwu Okafor and Jonas Okorie.

3 A scattering of even earlier establishments had existed. These included the Eastern-Region-owned Hotel Presidential, the colonial Catering Guest House and a number of family-run inns.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 : A street in Abiriba (May 2017)
Fichier image/jpeg, 568k
Titre Figure 2 : Interior of a Nollywood house (Asaba, December 2015)
Fichier image/jpeg, 488k
Titre Figure 3 : Nollywood House with front-column-pediment structure with balcony (Asaba, December 2015)
Fichier image/jpeg, 592k
Titre Figure 4 : Colour-coordinated room in Amen Estate (Lagos, May 2017)
Fichier image/jpeg, 392k
Titre Figure 5 : Signage of D-King’s Planet Suites featuring star actor Osuofia (Enugu, May 2017)
Fichier image/jpeg, 400k
Titre Figure 6 : Split-colour corridors in D-King’s Planet Suites (Enugu, May 2017)
Fichier image/jpeg, 397k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Alexander Bud, « Squandermania or Nigerian urban renaissance? Houses, hotels and Nollywood in an African creative economy »Anthropologie & développement, 52 | 2021, 29-49.

Référence électronique

Alexander Bud, « Squandermania or Nigerian urban renaissance? Houses, hotels and Nollywood in an African creative economy »Anthropologie & développement [En ligne], 52 | 2021, mis en ligne le 11 juillet 2022, consulté le 08 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Alexander Bud

The Africa Narrative, Washington D.C., USA; alexbud71[at]

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search