Signs and Signification in Chika Unigwe's Night Dancer and Kunle Afolayan's October 1


Nigerian novelists and filmmakers deploy cultural codes to communicate certain messages and create a genuinely Nigerian narrative art recognisable to the reader and viewer. Even when the process of conveying a message seems overt, certain messages are still artistically encoded for the reader and viewer to crack. Consequently, this study critically elucidates how cultural signs convey meanings in Chika Unigwe’s Night Dancer (a novel) and Kunle Afolayan’s October 1 (a film), which address similar thematic concerns. This is an analytical endeavour to show how Unigwe and Afolayan create the extraordinary out of the ordinary while spelling the Nigerian reality.

This study applies aspects of Peircian semiotics to the analysis of the selected Nigerian novel and film, which give room for the conceptualisation of a sign as anything – a word, a sound, an image, a statement, an event, an object - which is capable of signifying. The analysis specifically relies on the peircian triple-chained conception of a sign (sign, object and interpretant), which drives the concept of a sign beyond the twofold ambit of linguistics (the signifier and the signified) which the Saussarian conception limits it to, and guarantees a more complex understanding of the signifying process.

Chika Unigwe’s Night Dancer addresses the complexities which confront the modern-day Nigerian through the lives of some fictional Igbo characters within the scaffold of the indigenous Igbo culture, while Kunle Afolayan’s October 1 addresses similar issues through the lens of the indigenous Yoruba culture. The most dominant of these issues, from which other issues stem in both novel and film, is the fight between indigenous traditions and modernity. Consequently, the signs explored in Night Dancer have their meanings implanted within the Igbo cultural universe. These signs do not work alone. Instead, they interrelate to form cultural codes. The indigenous Yoruba culture serves as the framework within which signs communicate meanings in October 1. These signs also work together to project the filmmaker’s encoded messages to the viewer. However, the written word, which is the primary material through which signs convey meanings in Night Dancer, involves an intricate reading. This is as a result of the verbosity that Night Dancer as a novel relies on. Hence, seeking meaning within it involves a more careful scrutiny of the interrelatedness of its lengthy words. On the other hand, the viewer has sound and the visual image as the meaning-making materials in October 1. The process of reading the encoded meaning that the image signals is simpler because it does not often involve any re-creation of mental image as the word in Night Dancer.

Chika Unigwe and Kunle Afolayan tactically utilise copious cultural codes which lie within their respective cultural backgrounds to create a parallel sense of reality identifiable to the Nigerian reader and viewer. Insights from this study would further validate the connection between literature and the cinema in Nigeria beyond using novels and their film adaptations.

Key words:     Signs, cultural codes, signifying process, Night Dancer, October 1

Word count:  481



Content                                                                                                                                  Pages

Title page                                                                                                                                i

Certification                                                                                                                            ii

Dedication                                                                                                                              iii

Acknowledgements                                                                                                                iv        

Abstract                                                                                                                                  v

Table of contents                                                                                                                    vi


CHAPTER ONE: The Nigerian Novel and Film as Vehicles of Cultural

Communication: TracingHistory Down to Chika Unigwe and Kunle Afolayan                 

Introduction                                                                                                                             1

The Early Nigerian Novel and its Thematic Tendencies                                                           2

The New Nigerian Novel and the Drift towards Thematic Diversification:                         

A Trace Down to Chika Unigwe                                                                                               4

The Evolution of Film in Nigeria: A Historical Sketch                                                              6

The New Generation of Nigerian Filmmakers and the Rise of Kunle Afolayan                       8         


CHAPTER TWO: Defining Signs and Identifying the Literary and

Cinematographic Language

Signs: Towards a Broad Definition                                                                                         12

Defining the Literary and Cinematographic Language                                                          16

Signification as a Culturally Conditioned Process: Towards                                                

The Nigerian Context                                                                                                             24

Semiotics: Investigating Language beyond the Province of the Written Word                     29


CHAPTER THREE: Cultural Signs and Meanings in Chika Unigwe’s

Night Dancer: A Critical Semiotic Reading                                                                          

The Synopsis of Night Dancer                                                                                                34

Thematic Concerns in Night Dancer                                                                                       35

Signs and the Meaning-Making Process in Night Dancer: The Igbo Cultural           

Universe in Display                                                                                                                 38



CHAPTER FOUR: Cultural Signs and Meanings in Kunle Afolayan’s

October 1: A Critical Semiotic Reading

The Synopsis of October 1                                                                                                     52

Thematic Concerns in October 1                                                                                            53

Exploring Signs and the Meaning-Making Process through Sound and the

Visual Image in October 1                                                                                                      58


CHAPTER FIVE: Between the Semiotics of the Novel and Film:

Assessing the Meaning-MakingProcess in Night Dancer and October 1                              70

Works Cited                                                                                                                          74                                                                   



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Gboyega, A. (2018). Signs and Signification in Chika Unigwe's Night Dancer and Kunle Afolayan's October 1. Afribary. Retrieved from

MLA 8th

Gboyega, Ayepola "Signs and Signification in Chika Unigwe's Night Dancer and Kunle Afolayan's October 1" Afribary. Afribary, 22 Nov. 2018, Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.


Gboyega, Ayepola . "Signs and Signification in Chika Unigwe's Night Dancer and Kunle Afolayan's October 1". Afribary, Afribary, 22 Nov. 2018. Web. 13 Jun. 2024. < >.


Gboyega, Ayepola . "Signs and Signification in Chika Unigwe's Night Dancer and Kunle Afolayan's October 1" Afribary (2018). Accessed June 13, 2024.