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  • Travel Gone Awry:Cosmopolitan Love and Female Ordeals in Games Women Play (2005)
  • Senayon Olaoluwa (bio)

the designation of the present age as a “restless epoch” is evident in many ways across space, but it is perhaps best validated in the unique form of cosmopolitanism that African citizens exhibit particularly in their travel and quest for survival in the West. Against this backdrop, this article first reflects on the socioeconomic crisis of the 1980s and how it laid the foundation for the mass exodus of Africans to the West. It explores further how this exodus in turn today provides a false sense of cosmopolitanism to a number of Africans, as they try to cope with the treacherous and precarious situations of economic survival in the West and the constitutive elements of instability and mobility of locale. Turning to the Nigerian movie industry, the article focuses on Games Women Play (2005) and contends that Emerald’s (Stella Damasus-Aboderin) ordeals in the movie should be seen not as direct consequences of the “games women play,” but instead as the awry fallouts of the overwhelming but deceptive allure of migration, especially of the cosmopolitan strand. This view is underscored by the way young Africans are taken by the prospects of living fulfilled career lives in the West, without any knowledge of the migratory imagination and its contradictory realities. I argue that if the socioeconomic conditions of the homeland and its attendant dystopia are vectors for migration of Africans (male and female) to the West, the envisaged largess of utopia in the West is mostly elusive, making a pawn of African migrants from both ends of the travel spectrum. However, it is the female gender, as in the case of Emerald, that is at the worst receiving end when travel goes awry. Therefore, Emerald’s plight is evident in the multiple scandals of her double marriage to two friends in Northern Ireland and the United States. The traumatic consequences of the friends’ eventual knowledge of this on return to Nigeria should not be seen as an attempt to be smart, as suggested by the title of the movie, but must be conceived as a culmination of the socioeconomic ramifications of migration for the African female folk within the logic of contemporary travel and return.

The global transformation brought about in screen art has meant a major push for the extension of Africa’s horizon of mimetic performance in a manner that places it on an accelerated track. The evidence of the transformation is the invention and development of the now-celebrated Nigerian movie industry, whose critical reception within a relatively infant evolution places it in the class of the big three in the world—Hollywood, Nollywood, and Bollywood.1 This Nigerian movie industry, better known as Nollywood, continues to exhibit various tendencies—ranging from generic delineation to thematic preoccupation. The tendencies, in so many instances, instantiate a form of fidelity to [End Page 21] various African cultural worldviews. Nevertheless, a number of other such tendencies instantiate the connectivity of the movie industry to issues that continue to have ramifications for humanity, irrespective of location. In the particular case of the film under study, perhaps a convenient point of departure will be the explication from the outset that Games Women Play is easily located in the genre of love and romance. Nevertheless, for greater critical clarity, it is better understood when more specifically designated as playing out against the backdrop of cosmopolitanism.

To that extent, the film touches on one of the issues that have ramifications for people all over the world, no matter where they are located; this is the contemporary understanding of cosmopolitanism. There is, moreover, a strong reason to include cosmopolitanism in the list of concepts that touch us all also because of its capacity to involve all categories of humanity, whether as willing or reluctant participants. As a phenomenon reputed for manifesting both idealism and materiality, cosmopolitanism references all endeavors of human activities and thoughts. This is, moreover, a time-honored perception, with cosmopolitanism construed as simultaneously old and new (Warf iii). The centrality of movement/mobility, which is pivotal to the comprehension of cosmopolitanism, is witnessed in all ways...


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pp. 21-34
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