Nkeng Stephens Misses the Mark with #BeProud Video

Nkeng Stephens Misses the Mark with #BeProud Video
Here we go! The point of an anthem is to awaken a sense of belonging, to revisit our collective values, our culture, way of life, our cosmo-vision, the way we see things as a collective. A song like Witty Minstrel’s #BeProud is perhaps the biggest cultural outing in the last decade. The rythm, that thumping drumbeat, the choral delivery of its hook, like a fireside recitation, the melting rythm of the Nso dialect, tick all the boxes. It is a timeless masterpiece. And so it deserved a glorious celebratory video. And here comes Nkeng Stephens with an offering that is so basic, it almost destroys the song.
I have hesitated since the video was put out to comment on it for two major reasons. First, because I am rooting for Witty Minstrel. I, like many others, want him to win so badly. Because he deserves to. And especially with this song. Secondly, because I know that Nkeng Stephens will not take criticism well. He believes he is an “African Giant” whose work should not undergo any form of interrogation, shouldn’t be put under the microscope, unless it is being praised. There lies the problem. Artistic works are (to be) open to opinions, interrogation and criticism. I think he is a fantastic director, but even the best sometimes miss the mark. It doesn’t make them bad, it simply means they screwed up in that instance. I have seen him miss the mark before with Daphne’s ‘My Lover’. That video was a razzle dazzle of assorted colours shoved unto audiences in such blinding colour mixtures that it almost induced photosensitive epilepsy. But one could let it go. It was not a song of the type of magnitude and relevance as ‘Be Proud’.
So with this one, I am not letting it go. I think that this is the second time a star director has messed up a big project and vexxed the hell out of me. The first was Adah Akenji’s work on Awu’s “Yayayo”. That video concept was so bad, the only thing one could remember was that it must have been sponsored by an ankara-producing factory. There was Ankara everywhere. No concept. No fitting reference.
Video directors have to understand the importance of being students of culture and society. They need to study, steep themselves into seeking knowledge about times, nuance, scenery, lifestyles, and traditions before coming up with video concepts. Especially on videos that are socked in cultural and historical messages and subtexts.
They have to learn one more important factor, VIRAL QUALITY. Ask yourself what would make this ‘viral’? This was a video full of ‘taking another shot’ after ‘another shot’ without any commitment to making something that was culturally representative, something that allows the mind to travel, that brings nolstagia, that highlights the beautiful parts of the Nso, its breathtaking scenery, its food, rituals, juju, and most especially dance.
Dance is one of the ways to make this viral.
I have watched videos of the ‘Be Proud’ challenge and the dance moves, their rawness were mesmerizing. This does not make me want to dance. It does not get me excited enough. This is so flaccid, it would make any woman sick. There is no architecture in the video construction, no texture, no depth, just bland shots and a white G wagon, an aupicious rental which could be deferred to just get more dancers, food, more catchy scenery and for Christs’ sake, more palm wine. For now, I am sticking with the audio.

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