By Yemi Olakitan
Former President of Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN) and one of country’s foremost filmmakers, Obafemi Lasode, has said his latest movie, Africa’s Stolen Treasures, is ready to hit the cinemas.
According to him, the movie is a wake up call to Africans at home and in the Diaspora to push harder for return of treasures stolen from the continent. These rare and precious artworks are in museums and galleries across Europe and America. Britain and France are the biggest culprits in this shameful plunder of Africa’s cultural heritage, with their museums holding thousands of stolen works of art.
Olasode said these artefacts do not mean any other thing than aesthetic and monetary value to the looters. However, to Africa, “these pieces carry our history, culture and identity.”
The filmmaker added, “these works are ‘timeless document’ and they contain the history of families, clans and villages that make up ancient African societies.” He said, “with most of that indigenous knowledge having been erased and stolen from us, we are left with little evidence of Africa’s pre-colonial history. This is why the white man took up the task of re-writing our own history for us during the colonial era.”
In 1897, Britain invaded Benin Empire, and plundered the land, wiping out in the process one of the most advanced cultural heritages on the continent. Thousands of bronze and ivory works that chronicled the history and customs of the people were looted from the palace.
According to reports, Dr. Mark Walker, who inherited two of the famous Benin bronzes from his grandfather, Captain Herbert Walker, however, returned them in 2014. The senior Walker was involved in the pillaging of Benin.
Lasode said, “this movie is my attempt to show the world that process of robbery. You can look at it as an adventure movie, kids, as well as adults, can watch and be entertained, but the film’s essence is the message being passed across. Institutions and governments must rise and demand for the return of Africa’s cultural heritage stolen by colonial masters. Our treasures are the totality of who we are as a people. They are the legacy of our forefathers left for us to pass on to coming generations. This is a re-education movie, especially for African families, decision and policy makers.”
According to Lasode, “the movie should be seen as a part of an overall awareness campaign to assist in heightening the society’s knowledge on the need to protect and preserve Africa’s antiquities.” Africa’s Stolen Treasure is an adventure tale about three treasure hunters, who came to Africa to recover, hidden African artefacts. In their bid to escape the natives who were in hot pursuit, these looters had buried these works. The fleeing explorers were able to produce a map with the hope of returning someday to retrieve the hidden artefacts.
The map resurfaces in the 21st century at a European auction. Who will get there first? This is where the suspense is. Will the thieves be brought to justice? The answers are all in the movie Africa’s Stolen Treasures. The movie features Gbenga Richards and Belinda Effah (AMAA winner, 2010), and legends such as, Clarion Chukwurah, Lari Williams, Eddie Ugbomah, Prince Jide Kosoko. Also appearing are, Paul Obazele, Funmi Tijani, Femi Robinson, George Eyo, Tunde Alabi and Wale Adebayo (Sango).
King Sunny Ade (KSA), Nelson Brown and Harriet Ewemade produced the soundtrack. The project is shot on High Definition Video (HD) and is transferred to 35mm celluloid film for international screenings. It was shot at Abijo Film Village, Lekki, Lagos.
For the past two decades, Lasode has been in the vanguard of promoting Nigerian arts and culture through music and movies. He studied business administration in the U.S.. He also has a master’s degree in Radio, Television and Film Production from the Brooklyn College, City University, New York. Lasode was a promoter of African music in the United States and was a broadcaster with WNYE Radio, New York.
Through his radio show, Africa N’ Vogue, Lasode promoted Nigerian music in United States and was part of the team that brought KSA, Oliver De Coque and Sonny Okosuns to perform at the Apollo Theatre in the U.S.On coming back home, he founded Even Ezra studios, which became a refuge for artistes for many years, as he used the place to provide support to them.