Showmax Unveils Documentary On Igbo Apprenticeship System “Freemen”

African streaming platform, Showmax, is set to launch an original documentary series, Freemen, that is based on the Igbo apprenticeship system locally known as Igba Boi. This groundbreaking seven-part documentary premieres on February 12, 2024, which coincides with the relaunch of the new Showmax app.

The Igbo Apprenticeship System has been a cornerstone of the eastern region of Nigeria for generations. The practice involves young individuals placed under the tutelage of experienced traders, artisans, or professionals to learn a trade or skill for a period of time, after which they gain “freedom”, typically including a cash settlement or seed money that will allow them to begin their own trade. In recent times, the business model has gained worldwide traction, and in 2021, Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe’s work on the Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS) was published in the Harvard Business Review.

The trailer for Freemen reveals businessman Dr Anene Okeke approaching the parents of a young man he intends to take under his tutelage, asking for their consent to take him to the city to learn a trade.

The documentary features prominent Igbo businessmen such as Dr Cosmas Maduka a.k.a Coscharis, Obinna Iyiegbu popularly known as Obi Cubana, Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Okey Japan, Bartholomew Duru Nwanguma alongside his son Peter Nwanguma, and other notable entrepreneurs. These successful businessmen share their personal stories and reflections on how the Igbo Apprenticeship System shaped their careers and paved the way for their entrepreneurial success.

“Freemen is more than just a documentary on the Igbo Apprenticeship System, it is a spotlight on our rich narrative and culture,” Executive Head of Content at MultiChoice, Dr Busola Tejumola, said ahead of the launch of the show. “We are excited at Showmax to be able to tell the vibrant story of a system that has transcended cultural boundaries into other regions of the country and beyond.”

The documentary has four unique segments, giving room for a profound exploration of the Igbo Apprenticeship System. These segments are the Pick-Up and Negotiations Period, Trial Period, Solidification of Agreement and Work Period, and Settlement Period, each offering a distinct perspective on the apprenticeship journey.

‘‘With Freemen, we open a window into the world of the Igbo Apprenticeship System, offering viewers an intimate look at how great business minds are nurtured and developed,” director and co-producer of Freemen, Daro Umaigba, stated in excitement. “This documentary is not just a showcase of the rich Igbo cultural heritage but also a valuable resource for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs seeking mentorship insights.’’

Beyond its focus on the Igbo community, Freemen shows how the apprenticeship system has evolved, adapting to different trades and industries such as manufacturing, retail, and services. The system has transcended cultural boundaries, influencing similar apprenticeship systems in other regions of Nigeria and across Africa, including Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia.

Freemen is co-produced by multiple-award-winning rapper Tobechukwu Ejiofor, aka ILLBLiSS (King of Boys), who is also responsible for the soundtrack production of the show.

As Showmax continues to redefine African storytelling, Freemen promises to provide viewers with a refreshing narrative and a deeper understanding of the Igbo Apprenticeship System. The documentary promises audiences an engaging and enlightening experience, offering a fresh perspective on the roots of successful businesses and the mentorship traditions that continue to shape them.

Freemen will be available exclusively on Showmax from February 12, with every new episode released on Wednesday. 

Watch the trailer here:

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