Language and identity: the impact of Nigerian video films on diasporic communities

Ugochukwu, Francoise (2011). Language and identity: the impact of Nigerian video films on diasporic communities. In: Language, Identity, and Intercultural Communication, A joint conference of the BAAL Intercultural Communication Special Interest Group and The Annual Bloomsbury Round Table, 9-10 Jun 2011, London, UK.



Today, while 54% of Nigerian migrants live in the United States, a significant 10% are found in the United Kingdom, and the Nigerian Diaspora in Britain is probably the largest in Europe. Research carried out between January and March this year shows that meeting others either face-to-face or online through social networks, helps Nigerians keep in touch; this occupies 72.7% of the 2011 respondents for a significant portion of their free time. Part of this recreational time is equally spent together with other Nigerians or Africans viewing video films in Nigerian languages, massively preferred to foreign films. 87.2% of respondents clearly perceive language as part of their cultural heritage and identity, a legacy to be cherished and protected especially in diasporic situations, a vital tool to communicate with older relatives in Nigeria and keep in touch with one’s roots; this marked interest for language also reveals the premium placed on communication among long-term migrants. Those films might be accused of keeping Nigerians abroad in limbo, resisting acculturation and rooted in a ‘neither here nor there’ space, yet they have empowered them to reclaim their culture and history and present it to others. This paper, based on two sets of questionnaires and interviews dated 2009 and 2011, seeks to evaluate the impact of Nigerian video-films among diasporic communities in the UK and reasons behind the success of these films among resettled Nigerians, focusing on Igbo and Yoruba speakers. It investigates the potential importance of language in viewers’ motivations and practices, the role played by the cultural message of the language in identity-reinforcement within the Nigerian community, and the impact of these video-films on the revival of language and cultural practices among diasporic communities.

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