- Nollywood Stars: Media and Migration in West Africa and the Diaspora by Noah A. Tsika
Nigeria's dynamic media industry, nollywood, which is now the second largest producer of films per annum, has emerged as one of the most prominent global entertainment industries in recent times. With its roots in pirate video cultures, Nollywood has, in the last decade, swelled to a wide array of practices and an expansive production and distribution network that spreads across West Africa and the African diaspora in America and Europe. Noah Tsika's Nollywood Stars is a pioneering book that makes a significant contribution to the growing body of scholarship on African screen media and the critical emergent field of Nollywood studies. Tsika uses a thick description of the industry by looking at a range of films and film stars to map Nollywood's transnational star culture in an increasingly corporatized industrial media network. In his introduction, Tsika gives a perfunctory history of the emergence of Nollywood but steers clear of debates on Nollywood's "pirate infrastructure" and its video aesthetics and bootlegging.1 Instead, he places Nollywood stars in a complex relationship with state policy, individual agents, corporations, and social and cultural diversity both within and beyond Nigeria to explore how multiple identities of Nollywood stars are mobilized into myriad circuits of circulation.
In his study, Tsika is primarily invested in looking at the intercontinental and transcultural negotiations between the star and the industry. He maps this relationship by making a critical intervention in the Western- and Hollywood-centric theoretical framework of star studies. At the outset, Tsika foregrounds this intervention by posing the question, "What would a theory of cinema stardom look like if it began from Nollywood and not Hollywood?" (9). Nollywood Stars is an illustration of what this shift away from the essentialist models of star studies would look like. Tsika's focus on the skill, technique, and the diverse personae of individual stars who navigate social taboos, ethnic and linguistic borders, and multiple platforms through semiotics [End Page 82] and performance strategies dismantles stardom as a stable category. Instead, Tsika illuminates a complex circuit of local formulations in Nollywood's transcultural exchanges and travels that are at once rooted and mobile.
In a critical theoretical turn, Tsika turns to phonetics, vernacular accents, and languages to understand transnationalism through Nollywood stars' rootedness in local conditions and their continuous border crossing in the industry's informal divisions of region (Igbo and Yoruba), gender, age, and so on. For instance, Tsika explores how local formulations, like the fluidity with which stars move between Igbo and Yoruba identities, shape the global flows of Nollywood's transnationalism as "polysemous star images" navigate complex linguistic, social, and cultural frontiers and lodge a critical association between West Africa and the diaspora (21).
In chapter 1 Tsika focuses on the transcontinental appeal of Nollywood stars and their transformative onscreen personas across different mediums. The chapter provides a broad framework for studying Nollywood stars in a way that avoids deductive comparative models such as Hollywood or Bollywood or a focus on "Nollywood's auteurist culture" (31). Instead, Tsika decenters Hollywood in the broad field of star studies and offers new ways of understanding stardom in Nollywood.
Chapter 2 explores how the materiality and format of the texts shape Nollywood stardom. Here Tsika shifts his focus from the discourse on medium specificity in order to study the stars' relationship with the "deglamorizing media technologies" (70). The formats of CD, VHS, and VCD, Tsika argues, play a critical link between format, star body, and star fashion, particularly in a corporatized model (73). Chapter 3 explores these industrial changes and maps the new emerging connection between the star image and corporate identity. As a case study, the chapter looks at Globacom, a Nigerian telecommunications company, to study the link between this transnational corporate infrastructure and its confrontation with the local, particularly with regard to stars' popularity and widespread audience. Tsika focuses on the popular films of the Blackberry Babes trilogy to address how...