I watched the new movie, Anikulapo on Netflix the other day and read a couple of reviews that greeted the movie since it’s release.
While to many, the movie is a masterpiece, especially the likes of its maker, Afolayan. For me, it has no merit and the accolade so far poured on it, is distant from the reality of the movie.
Arts, in whatever forms, mirror life itself. Artists, in general, have the right to either exaggerate reality or underplay it for effect and other purposes. Despite this license, they have a duty to the truth. Like they say, opinions are free, but facts are sacred.
The story line is simple and straight forward: a young man from Gbongan left home and wandered into Oyo Ile, where fortunes smiled on him. On account of an amorous relationship with a wealthy woman, he was elevated to clothe the king’s household. His elevation led him into the arms of one of the queens with whom he committed a sacrilege and both were banished.
Left for dead, his spirit was however revived by the mythical Akala bird and with the power of the bird, the young man made it in another town. His new found wealth and fame turned him into an ungrateful man who finally met his albatross in the arms of many other women. Buoyed by pride, he eventually priced himself out of favor.
The lessons are clear, but not so the plots. The costumes were great and the scenes were equally well made.
Mentions were made of the slave trade and we saw cowrie shells being used as money. We saw horses and donkeys, among many other props with which Afolayan brought the story to light.
Historically, Oyo participated in the slave trade and thus references to the trade were apt. However, the context of Oyo’s involvement in the slave trade vis-a-vis other things in the movie reveal how ahistorical the movie is.
Hence, Oyo was too engrossed in warfare that its horses, few as they were, were fully involved in the war efforts. No one gets the impression of the numerous wars that engulfed Oyo at this time in the movie.
The great Oyo-Ile was also poorly represented and the same with its king. As an expert in dress in Yorubaland, I was completely let down with the way the king and his chiefs were dressed. Did Afolayan and co even know that velvet was an exclusive preserve of the king? Were they aware that, by law, no one was allowed to wear it?
One would expect the Alaafin to be well dressed and his presence attended with the dundun drums, sekere, and agogo. Sadly, not once did the traditional dundun- the exclusive drum of the Alaafin, featured anywhere in the movie.
The grandeur of Oyo – from its prosperity that became a lore during the time of Alaafin Abiodun to the extent of its powers that cowered the Dahomeyans, etc. were absent.
It is only in Afolayan’s imaginations that one strange person can saunter into Oyo-Ile, the capital of an empire that was ringed about by soldiers. It is only in Afolayan’s imaginations that a craftsman from another town with no pedigree can, simply because of sexual exploit with an old woman, become the palace dressmaker in a town reputable and reputed for Ofi making.
Gbongan was not a major town. It was a market town. Hence, it is strange and curious that a major cloth-maker could come from there.
Cloth making, as at the beginning of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries was a major and professional occupation that had guilds in the 4 major centers of production: Abeokuta, Osogbo, Iseyin and Oyo. Ilorin did not emerge until the dispersal from Oyo-Ile.
Gbongan was a mere market town and could not possibly be a home to any master ofi-maker. Sadly, the so-called Ofi maker was poor on the loom. He was so poor that he handled the ‘motor’ (oko) and ‘aja’ on wrong hands.
Afolayan’s gaffe are too many and glaring that one cannot but wonder what explains the accolades the movie is garnering.
Aafin, in Afolayan’s rendition must be close to the bush and bereft of security that a wayward queen can slip away unnoticed to be laid on in a nearby bush by a commoner that she met in less than 5 minutes.
Afolayan did a diservice to Yoruba history and tradition in this movie.
The movie, in addition to the above, showed the dearth of actors in Yorubaland today. He needed to recycle old hands and superimposed a computer-generated voice on them rather than allowing these characters to give us their voice.
Like Tunde Kelani’s Ayinla, this is another one that’s loud in cinematography and low in substance.
The Woman King is a far better movie that Anikulapo. For me, this can only be rated 4 out of 10.