This is my Africaby Tala Leratadima / 08.07.2009
It’s not often that a film can inspire a total rediscovery of the continent I have called home for the past twenty seven years. And all just from sitting in front of a screen for 50 minutes and watching Zina Saro Wiwa’s This is my Africa. From the smell of sweat and blocked drains in Lagos to the music and colours of Ghanaian art, all these impressions got my nostalgia going at full throttle. This film is a kaleidoscope of experiences, memories and realities that make Africa the wonder it is.
You should know Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro-Wiwa, the legendary Nigerian author, television producer and activists who was executed in 1995 for the same reasons many a son of the soil are eliminated when they speak the truth. Don’t know about Ken Saro Wiwa? Educate yo’self here, fool. Zina Saro Wiwa daughter to Ken, is walking not too far from her father’s footsteps, using film as her form of activism, and creating a fabulous journey into the reminiscence of what Africa is. In This is my Africa She conducted interviews with an interesting and eclectic mix (artists, professionals, actors, business people) of the African Diaspora as well as those having visited and fallen in love with the continent (they call them Africaphiles), all sharing their knowledge about food, art, music, culture, images, industry, that collectively make Africa pulsate.
Interestingly enough, this is a movie rooted in the African Diaspora. None of the people interviewed actually live in Africa, which is maybe why they can afford to be sopping wet romantics. Their commentary is nostalgic. They are not confronted with the daily issues that we all are. And yet, strangely, throughout the film I kept thinking to myself, ‘I want to go there’. At times I even felt less than African. I mean, I did not know what suya is. And that’s the insane thing about this beautiful continent. It’s insane that we know sushi and nachos but don’t even have the slightest idea about kontomire. We can wax lyrical about European art but be oblivious to the work of Yinka Shonibare. Who has seen Touki Bouki? Come on people.
This is my Africa is a great film, for its subject, its characters and its style. The continent is absolutely drenched in colour, soul, textures and vibrations that one can talk about the various elements for eons. The film has been accurately dubbed a crash course because it only scratches the surface of the wonder of Africa. Deliciously so nonetheless. The characters are all impassioned about their subject; animated and excited to persuade even the greatest sceptics that an African experience is one worth having. The set and the lighting is quite rudimentary; most of the interviews were done with a kanga as the background. Even Collin Firth looks almost hot. The simplicity with which everything is shot, is powerful in how it is able to complement the richness of everything is being said. I know fokol about composition, that when my friend told me she found fault with the framing I just nodded. The pictures were all pretty to me.
I left the screening feeling warm and fuzzy, proud in the reinforcement of what I have always known; how wonderful chakalaka, Nollywood and sadza is. But I also appreciated the new discoveries. Go watch the film and make your own discoveries, or I suck my teeth and call you an idiot Nigerian style.
This is my Africa is being screened as part of FOREX at the Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town.