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Bariga Sugar (2016) is a short film (approx. 22 minutes) about the unfortunate story of Jamil(10) and Ese(8) who live with their promiscuous single mothers amidst the shelter of Madam Sugar’s brothel in Bariga (Hence the name Bariga Sugar),it captures the melt down in a supposed Puritanist society. Similarly patterned in its plot what through its origin in Voltaire’s 1759 novel Candide has become known as the Candide pattern for reading film.  The story pattern is where a naïve and innocent person finds his character in an unusual situation. This is the case of Jamil (Tunde Azeez) and Ese( Halimat Olanrewaju) signifiers of Innocence who find themselves in this cesspool of mortal sin. These two,nonetheless, find comfort in one another as friends after Jamil moves into the ‘neighbourhood’. However, in re-interpreting this film, I choose to propound the concept of the Twin effectas an approach to interpreting this visual image.

Discussing under the Yoruba cultural belief of twins, the first born twin, whether  a boy or girl, is always called Taiwo, meaning  “having the first taste of the world”, whereas the second is named Kehinde, meaning “arriving after the other”.  (In this film, Jamil arrives second, meeting his soon-to-be-bestfriend Ese in ‘that’ world).  Although being born first Taiwo is considered the younger twin. His senior, Kehinde is supposed to send out his partner to see what the outside world looks like. As soon as Taiwo has given a signal by crying, Kehinde will follow. Kehinde is supposed to be more careful, more intelligent and more reflective, while Taiwo is believed to be more curious and adventurous, but also more non-chalant (Olaleye-Oruene, 1983, Stoll & Stoll, 1960). From the viewpoint of this film, Kehinde (Jamil) carries almost all the personalities listed above. Jamil is adventurous, intelligent, and curious, he intends take Ese on this path of sharing adventures and perhaps destiny. He teaches her to read, and to see the world in a better way.

To become the Queen of Bariga Sugar becomes Ese’s dream ( what else could she have been anyway. Madam Sugar is the Alpha of what she’s known all her life ), and here comes Jamil with his “big” knowledge to bring Ese to see herself more or less as the “Queen of England” rather than the “Queen of Bariga Sugar”. Hopes and dreams live only a few weeks as Jamil is caught by the unfortunate ink of the writer’s dramatic weapon of tragedy- death, but hopefully Ese would grow to make their dreams come true, hereby making Jamil live on in her memory.

(Bariga Sugar, 2015 15:23)

Following events in the film’s narrative, we find the theme of SACRIFICE evident in the story, as often a thematic myth of twins in the Yoruba belief system, that a twin may give his life for the other. The Yorubas believe that twins share the same combined soul, when a newborn twin dies, the life of the other is imperiled because the balance of his soul has become seriously disturbed. Jamil (in the light of this theory is Kehinde) and his “chi” (igbo) “ori” (Yoruba) is negotiated to die in place of Ese.Here, Jamil dies to save Ese. We can ask; why was it not Ese who stepped on the nail? Why did Jamil bring them out this far just to look at an Anthill? And then Jamil says at the tail-end of the film“…it’s getting late, let’s go home”, and that look on his face like he knows what was to happen? Does this statement connote a deeper meaning? Perhaps it did, perhaps it didn’t, but Jamil gets to eat the maggot and go “home”.

The concept of the Blue Doll

The Ere Ibeji effigies are carved small wooden statues that stand as symbolic substitutes for the soul o f the deceased twins. When one or both of the twins died, an ibeji statue would be carved out in their memory. The parents would treat this statue as if they were the living children by singing to them as awell as feeding and caring for them. (Mobolaji, 1997).

(Bariga Sugar, 5:08)

Although representing wooden babies, the deceased twin is not always said to be dead, rather, they are said to “have gone to the market “ or have travelled” in this case of Jamil’s death, Ese narrates to us that “he has gone to heaven”(Bariga Sugar, 19:04)

The film opens with Ese playing with her blue doll, the only friend she’s got before Jamil’s arrival, and doesn’t end with her playing with it, perhaps if the film had ended with her playing with the doll, the concept of the ibeji statue as observed above would have been powerfully concretized to symbolize Jamil’s soul. Nevertheless, Jamil lives on through Ese.




‘Chukwu Martin Uzo is a Film enthusiast, curious Filmmaker and Critic with degrees from the University of Ibadan, Theatre Arts Dept. He’s pro-environmental.


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