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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Creativity vital for Bongo movies

18th September 2011

The much fancied word ‘Bongo ’which  is used to refer to Dar es Salaam City is as a result of an amputation of a Kiswahili word ‘Ubongo’ where the letter ‘u’ is chopped off in our social surgical theatre. 


‘Ubongo’ is a Kiswahili equivalent of the brain, a part of the human body which controls and co-ordinates all the body functions but importantly, it is an organ in which we find cerebrum, the source of intelligence and creativity. 

It is against this background that a resident of Bongo is considered in the social circles especially by his upcountry compatriot to be above average. 


Personally, I relish scenarios when I visit my home village people. They approach me with respect simply because I am from the city of intelligence, Bongo.  


The feeling of mystery may be further compounded by seeing my journalistic paraphernalia which form the trappings of the modern city life; laptop, digital camera and radio recorder top the list. 


Within earshot one would whisper in wonderment ‘Magi jo bongo’ which literally translate these are people from Bongo. Cynically, grandmothers even go further to claim that sugar from ‘Odeyo’, a referential inference for Dar es Salaam is sweeter than the local ones. 


In a nutshell, in their humble view anything from Bongo is superb and authentic.

The above analogy leads us to an intellectual dissection of our hallowed Bongo movie industry if their work reflects the ingenuity expected from a highly held ‘Bongo’ brain.  


Before I begin separating chaff from wheat, I would like to register my appreciation to the entire fraternity of the Bongo movie artistes for their indispensable role of acting as a mirror of our socially plagued society, by extension I salute personalities like Steven Kanumba, a man whose artistic ingenuity I compare with a Nigerian.


I believe, without an iota of exaggeration, his calibre is currently unequalled in East and Central Africa; he must be a role model of many budding artistes. 


The fulcrum of this piece in a machine of my reasoning faculty bears the load of whether Bongo movie artistes have lived to the essence of the word ‘Bongo’ as analysed in the first paragraph. Have the mushrooming contingent of artistes exhibited the intellectual flair that we witness from foreign movies, for example, those from the Philippines. 


Do our today’s artistes have the ability of capturing the viewers’ emotion whereby you laugh where laughter is expected and cry where the same is inevitable?


Critical observation of the Bongo movies will realise that most of the artistes fail to capture the audience emotionally due to a myriad of factors central among them being lack of innovative approach, in other words most of them are predictable.

 US novelist, Edith Waton, comments: “Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before.”  


Most of the Bongo actors have failed to be original, there is a tendency whereby our artistes try to imitate their Nigerian counterparts and, in the process veer off the path of the film’s theme.


There is no dispute that anyone can act since this entails a projection of our counterfeit self but a typical actor should be a notch higher than an ordinary person. Ones work should be a product of an intellectual rigour characterised by ingenuity that comes up with a unique work of art. 


When watching most of the Nigerian films, one will realise that the artistes in those films transform genuine self to aptly fit into their characters. 


When playing the role of a witch doctor, a Nigerian will arrest your mind by casting himself in awe inspiring manner, his physiognomies would be a perfect replica of an ideal witch doctor, in fact you may forget that you are watching an actor in a fictitious story.


This is contrary to our Bongo artistes who often play such roles.  First of all, they fail to adorn the mental garb of their characters and are apparently ‘guilty’ or are carried away by the character they portray, thereby spoiling their work in the eye of a critical viewer.


Another goof which I also find irritating in our Bongo films is the time taken to prepare them; it is in Bongo where the same group of artistes may produce new films almost every month. 


You are likely to ask yourself a simple question: how do they prepare themselves adequately before they engage in shooting the actions? I recently watched a film prepared by US actors in which they revealed that its preparation took five years and actually the quality does not betray the time taken for preparations. 


In Bongo, a month is enough to rob you of your precious money. Apparently the urge to make money overrides the need for a superb work which results to dull products sold to us along the streets.


As I have laboured much in the first paragraph, Bongo movies should portray the characteristics of this important body organ; there should be a lot of creativity to come up with new ideas which not only entertain but also entail critical examination of our social dynamics. 


Artistes should avoid at all cost to be carbon copies of Western or Nigerian art and culture. However, it is worth noting that the Igbo culture which seems to eclipse other cultures in Nigeria dominates most of the films and in essence it has lent unique depictions of Nigerians worldwide.


Hence the recent revelation that some guys in Dar es Salaam were conning the gullible public of money by masquerading as witchdoctors from Nigeria. The lesson that a Bongo artiste can draw from this is that Nigerian films have had an impact in people’s minds.


Granted, call it Tollyhood or Bollyhood in the Tanzanian context , Bongo artistes should curve out their own path, intellectual laziness should be abhorred, ego blown gestures which are informed by heer bid to join the band wagon of ‘Ma staa wa Bongo’ should receive a collective disapproval if they are to compete international counterparts.

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