The Instagram Documenting the Style of Nollywood’s Golden Age

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@nolly.babes Nolly Babes Instagram Nollywood
Film still via @nolly.babes

We speak to the sisters behind @nolly.babes, an Instagram account celebrating the fashion of Nollywood films from decades past

A picture of Nollywood bad boy Jim Iyke in a zebra-print suit. Another of Nollywood femme fatale Rita Dominic wearing a wedding gown and holding a gun. These are the kind of images you’ll find on @nolly.babes, an account dedicated to immortalising some of the most iconic scenes from Nigerian cinema, dating from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Anonymously run, the account doesn’t only appeal to the generation who witnessed this era first-hand, but a new, younger generation too – both in Nigeria and across the globe. As well as the images, there are the captions which have a smart, socially progressive and often comedic, bent.

Here, we speak to the two sisters behind Nolly Babes on what inspired them to start the account, their favourite scenes from old Nollywood movies, and what the platform means to them personally.

Vincent Desmond: What inspired you to start @nolly.babes?

Nolly Babes: We always loved old Nollywood as it was a way for us to connect to our youth spent in Lagos, Nigeria after we left as teens for the United States. That love only grew over the years as certain movies and actresses became cemented in our memories. As time went on, we began sharing images with each other and quickly realised that stylistically, the women of classic Nollywood could not be touched and this is something we wanted more people to see and acknowledge.

VD: What does Nolly Babes mean to you personally?

NB: Nolly Babes is living proof that black beauty, creativity and style are undeniable. We make a conscious effort to showcase a range of women. All ages, complexions, sizes and socioeconomic backgrounds and they are all bad. From the way they dress and do their makeup to their raw physical beauty – they really can’t be matched. If you watch a scene where Genevieve is questioning why a man had the effrontery to even approach her, or one where Patience Ozokwor is reading a village council of men to filth you’ll have a full understanding of the wit and heart of a Nolly Babe.

VD: The stills from old Nollywood scenes usually come with captions that are either feminist or fun, what inspires that?

NB: When we see images we automatically see them in a current context. There’s a lot of Meg the Stallion-esque vibes in Nollywood and that’s really just one example of very current applications of a lot of the main themes we convey in our images. Nolly Babes are bold, witty, smart, stylish and often sexually liberated. They are feminists so the captions really write themselves.

VD: Can you remember the exact moment you fell in love with old Nollywood movies?

NB: Growing up, Nollywood movies were constant for us. An aunt of ours not only baked the best cookies but always had the hot Nollywood movies the minute they were released – and sometimes even before. So many fond memories of our childhood involved watching home videos in her house and rushing home from swimming lessons to watch Super Story and Papa Ajasco on TV. Our obsession with Nollywood got to the next level when we moved to the US.

VD: What are your three favorite scenes from old Nollywood movies?

NB: Blood Sister – when Genevieve convinces her sister’s (Omotola) boyfriend that she’s a prostitute. Genevieve tricks him by sending Omotola to a hotel known for being frequented by prostitutes while simultaneously letting her boyfriend know that’s where he can find her. Sure enough, he arrives and sees Omotola in the hotel. This leads to him breaking up with her by the infamous letter that closes out with ‘Keep being the bad girl that you are’: Nollywood gold.

Suicide Mission – Regina Askia trapped RMD in her closet and inside an empty bottle. Something about the combination of unforgettable Nollywood special effects and the representation of a man trapped in a bottle really appeals to us.

GirlsCot – The Nollywood Ocean’s Eleven with a blockbuster cast. The end of the police chase where the girls are safely locked in their compound with the police on the other side. Rita Dominic taunts the armed policemen offering a taste of her brandy because “I know you’ve never tasted good brandy in your miserable life”, after which Genevieve lets them know they’ll need driving lessons.

VD: Why do you think people are loving stills from old Nollywood movies this much in 2019?

NB: The late 90s to the early 00s is having a resurgence and that’s why these images seem so current. That era holds a lot of weight for our generation. For many of us it represents our coming of age. The first party we went to, our first real crush. These Nollywood movies and the style represented in them are a reminder of those carefree fun years.