You might often hear conversations of people arguing about what the correct pronunciation of the word “meme” is, and as always, there’s that one person who wants to tell you how unimportant the pronunciation of words are, or the unimportance of everything, and you should send them this article so they realise that the not-so-important word or concept has not only became a major source of joy and fun, but has also found its way into being one of the pillars of the entertainment industry – from music, to fashion, politics and movies. The importance of memes in today’s culture can’t be understated.
Although the introduction of memes to Nigeria began from simple edits of what was called funny pictures (we both know they were not funny), Nigerians took it up a notch by bringing in clips and videos from old Nollywood films that we found absolutely hilarious; from the likes of Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikedieze popularly known as a nollywood duo called “Aki and Pawpaw”, Odunlade Adekola who was one of the first memes to surface, Kanayo O’ Kanayo, and the man behind the current recent trend – all the way from Costa Rica – Charles Inojie.
About a month ago, A Nigerian TikToker posted a clip from an old Nollywood film, “Deceivers” and it blew up overnight. Just a few years ago, these films were criticised for lacking the sophistication that movie industries like Hollywood have. Though the plots may be “poor” and the production quality low, all of the themes present in old Nollywood like misogyny, religious fanaticism are still culturally relevant.
Even beyond memes, we are beginning to see fashion styles from the early 2000s resurface in mainstream and alternative African fashion, with designers like Mowalola, MejiMeji et al drawing inspiration from the Spaghetti tops, low waist jeans, heeled sandals and hairstyles worn in these old Nollywood movies. These movies have somehow found a way to become a part of our culture as even more people are throwing meme and y2k themed parties, where the attendees are dressed up as their favourite memes and favourite nollywood characters, playing old Nigerian party songs and making TikToks for every event.
Digital archivists are also contributing to the Nigerian pop culture identity while the world labours under misconceptions about Africa as a continent. Accounts like @estatefevercomedy are cutting old Nollywood clips and sharing videos that display various aspects of Nigerian life. Feminist-favourite YungNollywood uses screenshots of women from old Nollywood with their additional feminist commentary.
From politics, to music promotion, to nostalgic film cuts, to fashion and lifestyle, memes and Y2K pop culture have undeniably become an integral part of the average Nigerian’s internet experience and has created opportunities that more creative people are pluging into to create even more arty masterpieces.