Pantheras is a non-fiction project with an interest for human rights in the Niger Delta that responds to the urgency to address climate change and global geopolitical reorganization.

It aims to address smuggling ideologies in Nigeria and clandestine economies. It also seeks to explore the neoliberal risks in neocolonialism; governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta (oil complex effect); economy of violence; and governable spaces (spaces of chieftainship, indigeneity and nationalism).

Capitalocene: From above, the abstract monumentality of the Niger Delta (Nigeria), redefined by human ambition and reproduced into environmental catastrophe.

Existential fable: Another no-man's-land, where the blackness or the psychopathology of (Frantz) Fanon's colonization (and other African philosophers) seems like an empty sound now, and scholarly debates, that writhe around neocolonialism, echo distant and misfit.

In the war for oil, we find the resentment of a region forgotten and cursed by its resources (the pride of Nigeria’s economy), trapped between a government whose priority is the development of the North and not of the South of Nigeria, and local liberation movements (illegal bunkering) that long sold their ideals to petrodollars — a phenomenon rooted in decades and generations, condemned to perpetuate itself, and which the world prefers to ignore.

Expectations are high for the upcoming 2023 elections! The force of non-violence. Acknowledging social and ecological interdependence in an apocalyptic crisis. With the end of the fossil fuel age on the horizon the leaders of civil society call for economic, social, and political change.

Intentions note

Thematic concerns In Nigeria the Niger Delta has been redefined by human ambition and extractive capitalism and reproduced into environmental catastrophe.

Pantheras is a non-fiction project with an interest for human rights in the Niger Delta that responds to the urgency to address climate change and global geopolitical reorganization.

It aims to address smuggling ideologies in Nigeria and clandestine economies. It also seeks to   explore neoliberal risks in neocolonialism; governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta (oil complex effect); economy of violence; and governable spaces (spaces of chieftainship, indigeneity and nationalism). 

The politics of resource control The theme of resource control has become very controversial in Nigerian politics as the battle over who gets what of the nation’s wealth takes the center stage. The states which constitute the federating units claim to own resources and they find it logical that the control of the nation’s resources be allowed to them. For now, the Federal Government of Nigeria is solely enjoying the monopoly of resource control. Resource control is a constitutional matter, and the constitutional provision is that the mining of minerals (including petroleum oil and gas) is an exclusive federal responsibility. If this provision is to be reversed in favor of the states, it will have to go through a rigorous process of constitutional amendment.

During the colonial era in Nigeria, resource control was exclusively reserved to the regional governments. However, in the post-colonial era, this situation was reversed with the emergence of the Petroleum Act of 1969, passed by the regime of General Gowon (1966-1975), which gave the right of resource control to the federal government, and the Land Use Decree. But today the states that constitute the federating units are clamoring that resource control be given to them as it was in the colonial era. The justification of the states being that the resources are found within the geographical location of the states and so the control should rightly be theirs. In the wake of a situation where the federal government lays a strong hold on resource control the states are left to rely on resource allocation as last resort. 

The environmental catastrophe About 40 million liters of oil are spilled every year across the Niger Delta turning it into the most polluted place on the planet.

Communities are facing an environmental catastrophe. Air, land and water have all been contaminated, with shocking effects on residents’ health and livelihoods. Vast areas of the state’s waterways and mangrove swamps – one of the most diverse ecosystems in Africa – have been destroyed or put at risk. Farmland has been cloaked in oil, contaminating crops, and exposing people to high levels of radioactivity and heavy metals such as chromium, lead and mercury.

The bunkering activities Oil bunkering holds a positive meaning in a general sense, but in the rich oil fields of the Niger Delta in West Africa the term often implies a criminal practice embedded in political, social and economic controversies. As a practice to gain financially, to adjust what is perceived to be governmental discrimination and to finance a range of opposition and criminal activities in the Delta region, illegal oil bunkering grew to proportions that elicited a coercive government response in order to protect a vital national asset of the Nigerian state. A practice involving the Nigerian state, regional communities in the Niger River delta, and multinational oil companies, illegal oil bunkering holds local, regional and international repercussions. Due to the almost seamless transition between the vast Niger Delta and the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, illegal bunkering complicates the deteriorating offshore situation in the Gulf of Guinea and collectively they elicit security responses from the Nigerian government. Threatening the vital Nigerian oil industry, military deployments, new acquisitions of maritime vessels and even cooperation between state agencies and private security companies comprise the Nigerian reaction to counter the practice and impact of illegal oil bunkering.

The conflict crisis The conflict in the Niger Delta is also the result of the marginalization of the region, political repression, the population’s search for social equity and justice, historical factors, external players (oil multinationals) and local politics.

In the war for oil, we find the resentment of a forgotten region, cursed by its resources, trapped between a government whose priority is the development of the North and not of the South of Nigeria; and local liberation movements that have long sold their ideals to the petrodollars — a phenomenon rooted in decades and generations, condemned to perpetuate itself, and which the world prefers to ignore.

For the upcoming elections in 2023 expectations are high!

Approaching reality Based on a mutating experimental methodology Salomé Lamas’ critical media practice parafictions show an interest in the intrinsic relationship between storytelling, memory, and history, while using the moving image to explore the traumatically repressed, seemingly unrepresentable, or historically invisible, from the horrors of colonial violence to the landscapes of global capital.

Pantheras can be defined as a modified ethnography in the sense that we go to a specific location to observe the landscape and the people who inhabit it.

The ethnographic subjects are understood as their own creators of fictions, who chose to expose themselves to the camera, and who by extension impact the vision of the project.

The narrative is desired to be minimal and uncluttered, while appropriating simultaneously the semantics of two genres (the non-fiction and the fiction) conveyed by a choreographed cinematography.

Pantheras promotes an ecological and sustainable production to be co-created on the ground, in contact with local people and with their direct contribution. We will also leave room for the unforeseen and for the onsite clash with reality.

We land in the Niger Delta, and we uniquely define structural boundaries, resulting from the cohabitation with the communities, reflecting their activities but most importantly their urgencies and concerns, through the communication of knowledge and the mapping of sustainable empowerment. In this way, such communities can grow in autonomy to map local traditions and oral knowledge, and to appeal to their causes in the absence of external mediation. There should be an ethical coherence across the project and in its approach to reality.

In dialogue with Frantz Fanon, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Achille Mbembe and other African thinkers we reflect on how the violence that presided over the establishment of the colonial world provoked the destruction of the indigenous social forms, demolished without restriction the systems of references of the economy and the forms of appearance producing severe trauma. We not only address the colonial world but mostly neocolonialism and the global response to Black Lives Matter.

Pantheras is a three-part film.

Part I: Proposes a distant look that flies over the dantesque setting of a region devastated by the environmental disaster. 

(Visual concept: aerial shots, monumental abstraction, Turner’s sublime)

Part II: Using as a symbolic setting a deactivated National Oil refinery in Ogoniland (Port Harcourt) and exploring the aesthetics of music videos (including Afrofuturism, Nollywood) the project stages oil-related personal stories (illegal bunkering activity, activism, militancy…), rituals (human juju rituals…), traditional oral stories (myths…), historical events (colonial slave trade, destruction of juju shrines…) and post-colonial events (discovery of Oil in Oloibiri, Odi massacre...).

It presents us the showreel of players in the region (military forces: police, army, anti-cult), oil companies (multinationals Agip, Chevron, Elf, Mobil, Shell), militants (armed guerrillas, activists), informal workers (bunking ‘boys’), business men (international expats, national), traditional rulers (kings, youth leaders, chiefs), government representatives (governors), NGO, indigenous liberation movements (MOSOP Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, Biafra…) local, national, and international facilitator authorities.

(Visual concept: Afrofuturism)

Part III: With a modified ethnography approach and participatory video strategies it depicts the life and activities of local communities exposing the illegal oil bunkering production that feeds Nigeria.

(Visual concept: modified ethnography, participatory video, parafiction, night vision - infrared, thermal imaging, and Lidar technology, commonly used to examine both natural and manmade environments with accuracy, precision and flexibility; applications include military surveillance, climate monitoring, measurement of gases in the atmosphere, geologic mapping, and land management, among others)

The sound design interwinds the resort to direct sound with artificial composition, elaborated in contrast and tension with the visuals.

In addition to the use of text excerpts or references to the work of African thinkers, interviews with the project collaborators, experts in their field, namely: Lazarus Tamana (Nigeria) - activist, former president of the Movement For The Survival of The Ogoni People (MOSOP); Achille Mbembe (Cameroon) - philosopher; Osai Ojigho (Nigeria) - lawyer, director of Amnesty International Nigeria; Ike Okonta (UK, USA) - political analyst and writer; Dr Angela Ajodo-Adebanjoko (Nigeria) - political scientist; Ateke Tom (Nigeria) - former leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante, tradidional ruler, will be conducted.

Archive materials from: a) Colonial Film Moving Images of the British Empire; b) Harvard University Libraries and Museums [Film Archive, Peabody ethnographic Museum]; c) Local archives [Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), National Archives of Nigeria]; d) Other private archives such as New Africa, Travel Film Archive, Huntley Film Archives.

We will also include the classical music of Julius Eastman (1940-1990), an African American composer and political provocateur, as well as protest music by Fela Kuti (1938-1997), the Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey (1942-) and also traditional music and other contemporary Afrobeat tendencies from musicians as Olamide Baddosneh (1989-).

The editing shows cubist characteristics and should respect the duration of each long shot without, however, losing the rhythmic and stimulant progression to the audience.

External mediation The actual crisis is rooted in indigenous societies, British colonialism, modern society, unashamed capitalism and conflicting international powers.

The entangled Niger Delta (status quo) has been spreading insecurity and corruption across Nigeria and beyond.

The region has long (since the 50’s) been handling a crisis over resource control (oil) where all the players are fully armed and reactively ready to fight. It calls for external mediation, but the stakes (might be) too high for such intervention while human rights get shadowed by international economic interests.

Unfortunately, the moral disposition of most oil companies and consumers around the world in relation to the atrocities in the Niger Delta is not changing and the predatory practice that has penalized the region is increasingly forgotten.

Ethics of production Conscious of its ethical position, Pantheras is an explicit resistance towards the practice of other filmmakers and players and to their field of inscription, such as the production of  social dramas and the miseries of poverty tourism; to visual pornography and the saturation and consumption of images in contemporaneity; questioning the traditions of visual ethnography and criticizing the phenomena that have been perpetuated by agents from the Northern hemisphere going South in the hunt for major dramas.

Pantheras should simultaneously attempt to reflect about its own limits and to thread critical considerations onto its own practice and the contemporary panorama.

It should rely on and stimulate both growth and agency of an active audience in constant dialogue and reflection with the work, while setting questions larger than the ones they might find an answer to.

It should aim to reeducate – visual resistance or orthopedics – the contemporary viewer constantly harassed by a whirlpool of visual content, the fast-passed ever-changing local communities, and the pressures of a global and competitive society.

It should respond to the economy, and absence of visuals might prove to be more effective and suggestive than its presence, while questioning the banality of the evil.

Impact Pantheras will signal and reveal a dramatic reality with the aim of raising the awareness of the international community, and it should offer working tools to the right agents of change while producing compelling storytelling, educative content, astonishing visuals and promoting an engaging dialogue with the audience for anonymous democratic change.

The systemic apocalyptic socio-environmental scenario in the Niger Delta is growing with an unwitnessed petrol crisis and the end of the fossil fuel age on the horizon.

Nigeria’s response to the pandemic has renewed citizen debates over wider questions of governance and accountability. The common national desire to end the pandemic not only provides a shared opportunity for the government and citizens to rebuild the social contract, but also for Nigeria’s longer-term democratic progress and peaceful development. 

The force of nonviolence The most powerful argument against violence has been grounded in the notion that, when I do violence to another human being, I also do violence to myself, because my life is bound up with this other life. Acknowledging dependency as a condition, of who any of us happens to be, is difficult enough. But the larger task is to affirm social and ecological interdependence, which is regularly misrecognized as well. 

Pantheras is an audacious and an urgent project in a shifting world. To stay within the framework of Realpolitik is to accept a closing down of horizons, a way to seem cool and skeptical at the expense of radical hope and aspiration. 

Project status

a) Since 2016 we have been researching about the Niger Delta and the actual crisis. Our remote research mapped culture, religion, society, history, environment, economics, and politics.

We have been monitoring the region with resource to information available in newspapers, academic articles, published essays, literature, national and international studies.

We have been monitoring local politics and international movement in collaboration with the Amnesty International in Nigeria.

b) In 2019 the Oil market volatility caused by the global spread of the Pandemic pushed Nigeria into its worst recession in 30 years. The recession underlined the spread of corruption, poverty, human rights violation, and overall insecurity.

The End SARS movement brought Nigeria’s youth a glimpse of hope.

The Black Life’s Matter movement had little expression in Nigeria.

Global awareness of climate change in the world urged for new measures to regulate energy and gas emissions. The switch to alternative energies is predictably devastating to Nigeria (economy reliant on oil).

c) In 2022, the scouting trip to the Niger Delta (River States and Bayelsa) exceeded our expectations.

Disregarding the complexity of a coded environment it was clear that our mission is urgent.

It is not possible to describe what we felt in a single blow nor what is at stake there. The entangled Niger Delta is in a vicious cycle where the curse or blessing seems unbreakable. Nevertheless, every day numerous people die from the effects of pollution, illegal bunkering, murders, juju money rituals, mismanagement of kidnappings, hunger, accidents, and high jacking explosions.

Local agents were suspicious of our intentions, a natural reflex of the corruption and interests of NGO and other expats operating in the region disregarding the sustainability of the communities (some of them having left without notice).

All the agents in the region (regardless of their armed opposition) call for external mediation. 

We are able to navigate the players and to learn about their urgencies and prayers.

We are able to access security and logistics for a high-risk film production. Our presence and mission were received with high expectations and with the hope for change. We are stressed to urgently return to resume production.

We are certain about our role and about the global impact of our film. WE WANT TO PROMOTE CHANGE. THE MOMENT IS NOW!



Pantheras is a film project that will output several multidisciplinary productions. 

More soon.