Some months ago the ikan brand had a chance to travel to Nigeria, with Anna Schwaber and Director Chris Cloyd for his documentary entitled the “Lady Madonna Project,” for the Western African Development Support Organization (WADSO). Initally, Anna piqued my interest by sending this, written by Chris:

“We will be filming a documentary piece on the dedication of the Madonna Hospital that WADSO helped fund and complete. The story will explore the culture and the problems facing the town of Umuahia particularly in healthcare or the lack thereof while also staying with the Bishop of the Diocese. Working so closely with the community is going to mean great access and insight to people and stories. Here is the link to the IndieGoGo project with all the information thus far:”

 Chris has written an excellent description of The Lady Madonna Project on his SUCCESSFUL IndieGoGo page. I highly recommend going and reading it.

With that in mind and details clarified, Anna and I spoke more regarding the production and their needs based on the kind of shooting they’d be doing–wide open shots, lots of interviews, sometimes in very low lighting, with limited space while traveling light. I couldn’t help but recommend the iLED312 kit and a production slate to make sure they could sync audio in the field. They were game. Here’s a video they were able to throw together for us. Personally, I love the raw feel of the video.

The beginning reminds me of the take away shows on la blogotheque.


After they wrapped shooting, they provided me with some text on the ikan gear they used and a video that showcases not only the gear but also the culture of people surrounding them.What I think matters even more here, however, is the education and experience that came with trying to document such a culture. In an interview I had with Chris upon their return to the States, I really got a better idea of the issues the town is facing and what they saw:

“Religion plays a huge part in the community. It is the telephone tree, the town hall, and the safe harbor in a storm. Though not everyone treated at the clinics is religious, someone in their family got the word through religious circles. It is hard actually to imagine Nigeria without the Church. Like family, religion is a bedrock in Nigeria in a way it hasn’t been for some time in developed nations. The Church acts as a social buttress in many ways, picking up the slack where government fails the people. It is able to pool resources and deliver them in a targeted way to the community that the corruption in government would never allow.

Alcohol consumption didn’t seem any more or less prevalent than in any other society. Due to the strong familial bonds and desire to help ones family, there was far less evidence of homelessness. That said, the utter poverty of those in the bush and what in Nigeria would pass for a dwelling could not be considered much better than Skid Row.

Corruption in Nigeria, like many places around the world, is a daily course of business. The elections were held while we were there and people were far less concerned with issues of healthcare, infrastructure, or the economy as they were about having their votes actually counted. Our first experience with this system came on the second day. At the local airport in the capital, Abuja, we were informed that we had too many bags and would have to pay an additional fee if we wanted to make our flight. Sounds a lot like the States, right? Well this bag fee came out to the nice round price of $1000. That was a bit of a shocker. Granted, we all did have the international limit of bags, half of which were stuffed to the gills with various medical supplies, but even by American standards, that was pretty steep. So we pooled our money together, handed it to Fr. Francis, and our intrepid guide went to do our bartering. Obviously that price was too high, but it wasn’t the airline, it was the cost of the additional fuel. It couldn’t cost that much for the additional fuel, but we were Americans and could afford to pay. It went back and forth like that for some time. There was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, but when all was said and done, we paid a cool $350. I don’t think the good Father offered them absolution for their kindness, but I’m pretty sure things would have turned out differently had he not been in the Clergy. I’m also pretty sure that the extra money would have gone straight into the pockets of the baggage men he negotiated with.

The chiefdom is in many ways like the city council. Chiefs are people with a position of honor, whose obligation as a chief is to watch after and protect the community. It is less of a spiritual designation as it is a political one. Chiefs settle disputes in the local community, care for the sick, and allocate village resources. There are several chiefs in any given community, but like a mayor, there is one chief or “Eze” whose say carried more weight. It is said that to become a chief one must have killed a lion. This is to say the the person receiving the honor must have done something big for the community. We were extended this honor because of our commitment to the Madonna Hospital and our journey across the ocean, although our distinction is probably more akin to having been given the key to the city.

Shamanism is present in Nigeria, though less as a reaction to the heavy Christian presence in the South as much as it is an alternative for those with nowhere else to turn. Often those without the means to see a government doctor will turn to shaman or witch doctors to treat that which ails them. This of course merely prolongs treatment leading to complications down the road that are much more difficult to diagnose. The medications that are needed so desperately in Nigeria are so common in developed nations that it would be laughable if the actual conditions weren’t so dire. The medical supply room at one of the best bush hospitals was one half full shelf that any CVS would put to shame. With so many people barely able to put food on the table, it is no surprise that some would turn to the more economical, if less effective, route of spiritual healing.”

Here is their testimonial of the ikan iLED 312 kit:

“The compact LED 312 kit was really the key ingredient for shooting on location in Umuahia, Nigeria for the Lady Madonna project. Sometimes the only light that was present or even available indoors was the light we provided. The power situation being unreliable, this unit really provided just the barebones to get some compelling content we’d otherwise been without. It’s compact size travels well with batteries that hold enough charge to get us through a good day’s worth of filming. It’s ability to mount with the swivel-head either directly on the hot-shoe of my Canon 7D or to a light-stand, made it versatile and perfect for all run-and-gun lighting demands. An absolute documentary filmmaking essential. Thanks iKan!”