For Zulumoke Oyibo, the journey started as an experiment. At the beginning, a young secondary school girl took up the responsibility of organizing school playlets and cultural displays. Then, a young lawyer debating her life’s use, recycling job after job with the restlessness that plagues a woman in labour, but something was cooking, and it was Inkblot Productions.
Now, she is a mogul sitting atop a business enterprise that has produced movies with a docket of about 1 Billion naira in revenue amassing box office accolades including the highest grossing movie in Nigerian film history. This experiment which has birthed The Wedding Party, UpNorth, The Arbitration and other industry firsts, is one for the books. I am inspired by her story in so many ways especially by:
No film school experience, no formal learning of production, yet she has been part of the production of 12 movies in 5 years with each one setting record after record within the film industry. Driven by passion, she has become the pivot on which her organisation turns, despite being the only woman on the leadership team. Passion disciplined her and improved her skills. Passion kept her running two jobs in the early stages of her career even at risk to herself; by day, she would work her 9-5 and by night she would sit with her now co-founders and they would read books on storytelling and debate their learning. She showed up every time, no wonder she holds the magic wand.
Her Sweat For Inclusion And Her Silent Moves
In her words, she is here to “serve the story” and that is all that matters. The big picture of a movie industry where opportunities are democratized, and skills are optimized are her drivers. She works daily to bring everyone in. Her paradigm is not one of success but of responsibility. This sense of responsibility is why she shows up for her team and by extension, for us. More admirable is the fact that her moves are in silence, little noise is made yet she holds the keys to unlock one of the most valuable dockets of intellectual property in Nigeria.
In her words, “the strongest force is compassion and that is why women get it. For years, women have been made to feel that compassion is not an asset, but a weakness and they have been forced to play out this unique index to fit into society’s script, this is wrong.” For her, compassion is fuel and not stigma and should be common to all. Wonder woman, Zulumoke, we do not thank you, No, not enough; because what you do seems ordinary, devoid of the gadgets that often surround the powerful.
Superwoman, we do not cherish you, at least not now when you choose daily to take a bet on the unusual parts of us, work wonders with our stories, weave the threads of our culture by the movies you produce. If one was not paying attention, the ordinariness of your work and person would induce many walks past the content and value that you galvanize.
Some taste buds, especially those of the Nigerian Generation Z, will never know anything other than movies like the ones you have produced, they will think this is what has always been, and they would boast of a new normal. This new normal when Nigerian movies have become rated global consumables shaping our reputation and proliferating our global footprint. This new normal where international awards such as the Oscars are considered Nigerian heirloom. This is the potency of your work. If ever there was magic, it is disguised in the unassuming mien with which you release blockbusters, high income grossing movies and industry firsts.
You call yourself the Nigerian box office soldier, and what a fight you give to push boundary after boundary and experiment your way through to becoming the heartbeat of the triad that is the hands and feet of the revolution in the Nigerian movie industry this past decade, Inkblot Productions.
You nurture our culture without codes of conduct, our young ones interpret life from paradigms that you create or endorse and that is power in no mean form. It is for this reason you have become one of the masons of our soft infrastructure. In a few years, cultural definition for Nigerians in diaspora and even locally will bloom and one of the echoes will be through the ways our stories are told. We can trust in the security of the narrative because you soldier on. To you, Zulumoke Oyibo, I write this ode because you make women proud.
Oyeyemi Immanuel is an experienced commercial lawyer with leading Nigerian law firm, Templars. She is also a writer and has published scores of articles for young professionals. An advocate for human capital development, she uses different platforms to enhance the skill and capacity of Nigeria's young talents.