Lagos indigenes resent Eyo masquerade's portrayal in 'Gangs of Lagos'

They have also called on the NFVCB to revoke the right to screen Gangs of Lagos on any platform.

Lagos indigenes cancel 'Gang of Lagos' over portrayal of Eyo masquerade

The Eyo masquerade is an important part of the cultural heritage of Lagos Island, and it is considered a sacred tradition by the people of Isale Eko. The masquerade is a form of street theatre that is performed during festivals and other important events. It is characterised by the distinctive white costumes and masks worn by the performers, which are believed to represent the spirits of the ancestors.

Gangs of Lagos, which was released on Amazon Prime Video on April 7, 2023, featured scenes that depicted the masquerades as a violent and menacing presence, used by criminal gangs to intimidate and assassinate enemies. This portrayal has been criticised by the IDU, who argue that it misrepresents the true nature of the Eyo masquerade and reinforces negative stereotypes about their culture.

Speaking on this portrayal in a statement signed by the union's chairman, Mr. Yomi Tokosi, the IDU expressed its blatant displeasure at how Isale Eko was showcased in the movie.

The statement said that the neighbourhood was portrayed in the movie as a hotbed of crime, saying that it exposed Lagosians to egregious embarrassment.

It read, “The attention of the Isale Eko Descendants’ Union (IDU) has been drawn to the very disturbing violent images in a new movie directed by Jade Osiberu and Kemi Lala Akindoju, executive produced by Adesegun Adetoro, Demi Olubanwo, Olumide Soyombo, Bankole Wellington, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, and Kola Aina; and filmed by Greoh Studios and released by Amazon’s Prime Video Nigeria called gangs of Lagos.

“In the movie, the unique Eyo masquerade indigenous to the Isale Eko community in Lagos was illegally and scandalously depicted as being used as a camouflage, decoy and subterfuge for murderers and gangsters operating in the Isale Eko area.

Noting the historical heritage of the masquerade, the union frowned at its being portrayed in a "despicable and insensitive manner."

It added, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Eyo masquerade has been part of the unique cultural heritage of the Isale Eko community of Lagos since 1854 (169 years) and the Eyo is known as a masquerade for celebration in Lagos island and not an instrument of gangs of criminals as illegally and scandalously portrayed

“Most importantly, the movie has brought the Eyo masquerade and the people of Isale Eko into disrepute, who are now deemed criminally minded in the eyes of right-thinking members of the society.

“The Isale Eko descendants’ union is very disturbed that the culture and tradition of Isale Eko can be wantonly exploited in such a despicable and insensitive manner by Amazon Prime Video to the detriment of the Isale Eko community. The illegal and scandalous depiction of the Eyo masquerade in the movie is actionable and a petition has been lodged by the IDU with the National Film and Video Censors Board (NF&VCB) including other major stakeholders.

“The IDU has among other things requested that the NF&VCB withdraw the approval granted to the movie- Gangs of Lagos and direct the withdrawal of the movie from all viewing channels available to the public. The IDU and other community stakeholders will also be considering legal action for the damage done to the culture, tradition and image of the Isale Eko community and the Eyo masquerade.”

Gangs of Lagos is Osiberu's latest crime/action drama, which offers a strong argument for the concept of destiny and fate.

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