Michael Ọshindọrọ is a first-year Ph.D. student in the African Cultural Studies Department and a Racial Justice Award winner. His work, “Animation Films and Identity in Nigeria,” is situated at the intersection of language and culture and how these discursive fields impact varying forms of identity in popular culture. In line with his overall interest in the workings of cultural and linguistic ideologies, he studies topics of gender relations, accentism, and cross-cultural communication. As part of his Racial Justice Award-winning research, Michael is currently looking at representations of identity in Nigerian animations. He identifies animated films, comics, and VFX as a new frontier in visual cultural representation in the country, seeking to understand how these visual media forms not only reflect but also influence a collective cultural identity.
As identities take form, transform, and often “morph into disdentity,” Michael asks: “In what ways are the thematic landscapes of local legends and folktales shifting to reflect modern sensibilities?” And as cultural and political identities undergo regular change, Michael is interested to know how animation is positioned to reflect this transformation and how it is a tool for imagining the future. He looks to the works of animators and comic artists to observe how characters are created, the visual markers of their identity (facial features, color textures, and linguistic features, and performativity), and how they are relatable to local audiences. Michael’s questions about how identities and subjectivities are formed speak to the shifting planes of Nigeria’s popular culture.
While many used to associate animation with children, Michael explains that it is now a vehicle for social criticism and revolutionary politics. He highlights the illustrative and educative role that animation played during the #EndSARS protests that demanded an end to police brutality and systemic corruption in Fall 2020. For his Racial Justice Award, Michael is working on how animation was adapted and “deployed as a weapon in launching social justice campaigns.” He observes that the visual aesthetics and techniques of animated moving images coming out of Nigeria and how “the political and infrapolitical discourses they construct point to a deprovincialization–an appropriation and particularization of the global flow of postmodern visual culture.”
Although animation artists and industries are relatively new, animation studios are booming. In our interview, Michael explained that when we think of animations and visual effects, big production companies such as Marvel come to mind, but there is a rapidly growing animation industry largely concentrated in Lagos, producing globally-recognized entertainment. Animation studios, such as Anthill Productions, Comic Republic, and Spoof! bring design experts, colorists, painters, and other professionals together to collectively build a new public landscape. Michael sees animation as a “treasure trove in [terms of] popular culture in Nigeria.”
A former Fulbright fellow, Michael’s academic training is in English and Linguistics. His first MA is from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where he studied Linguistics, and his second in English, with a specialization in Literally and Textual Studies, is from Bowling Green State University. He also holds a BA is in Linguistics from Ekiti State University.
You can reach Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him here.
By Carly Lucas