[Americanah is the latest in a growing trend of Africa-focused
film and TV shows geared for a global audience.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 LUPITA NYONG’O’S TAKE ON CHIMAMANDA’S AMERICANAH FOR HBO WILL
HELP HOLLYWOOD’S AFRICA BLIND SPOT  
[https://portside.org/2020-04-12/lupita-nyongos-take-chimamandas-americanah-hbo-will-help-hollywoods-africa-blind-spot]


 

 Ciku Kimeria 
 September 15, 2019
Quartz
[https://qz.com/africa/1709436/lupita-danai-gurira-take-on-chimamandas-americanah-for-hbo/]


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 _ Americanah is the latest in a growing trend of Africa-focused film
and TV shows geared for a global audience. _ 

 Lupita Nyongo and director Danai Gurira, 

 

The long-awaited on-screen adaptation of Chimamanda’s
bestseller, _Americanah_, is finally coming to life as a ten-episode
HBO series starring Lupita Nyong’o and directed by Danai Gurira.

The duo of Nyong’o and Gurira have become a formidable force in
Hollywood when it comes to their devotion
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dapygThJHrM] to telling authentic
African stories and especially the stories of women. These days, of
course, they’re both best known for their lead roles in 2018
blockbuster _Black Panther_ set in the Marvel-created African
country of Wakanda.

_Americanah _has been a passion project for Nyong’o, the
Kenyan-born Oscar winner, who optioned the rights in 2014
[https://www.essence.com/entertainment/lupita-nyongo-options-film-rights-chimamanda-ngozi-adichies-americanah/] after
falling in love with the novel. Zimbabwean-American Gurira, too on her
part, is no stranger to adapting African stories. She was nominated
for a Tony Award for her Broadway show, _Eclipsed,_ that tells the
story of war in Liberia from women’s point of view.

_Americanah_ is the story of Ifemelu a young, courageous woman raised
in Nigeria who as a teenager falls in love with her classmate Obinze.
They each depart for the West during a repressive time of military
rule in the country with Ifemelu going to the US and Obinze to London.
Both suffer their individual struggles as immigrants. Despite her
academic success, life in the US forces Ifemelu to grapple for the
first time with what it means to be black.

AP PHOTO/KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Americanah

Thematically, the story of Ifemelu and Obinze is as true an African
story today as it was in the times of repressive military rule in
Nigeria that it was set in. Nigeria still continues to see a massive
outflow of people with the rising migration of even comfortable
middle-class Nigerians
[https://qz.com/africa/1271591/nigerias-stressed-out-middle-class-is-trying-to-leave-in-droves-and-the-destination-is-canada/],
as the country fails to live up to their expectations. In the global
context of rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the West, backed
by right-wing, populist leaders in power
[https://www.npr.org/2019/07/23/744076619/boris-johnson-britains-next-prime-minister-shares-similarities-with-trump],
it can be expected that a challenging undocumented life in the West
awaits some of those who leave.

_Americanah_ is the latest in a growing trend of Africa-focused film
and TV shows geared for a global audience. Recent high-profile deals
show they are not only popular with all types of fans but also
commercially successful. Top of this list is _Black Panther, _which
passed the $1 billion mark
[https://qz.com/1243319/this-is-where-black-panther-fits-in-the-global-market-of-high-gross-films/] within
its first month of release.  Then there’s Netflix’s _The Boy who
Harnessed the Wind_,
[https://qz.com/africa/1569653/netflixs-the-boy-who-harnessed-the-wind-is-a-true-african-story/] directed
and starring British-Nigerian Chiwetel Ejiofor which had
overwhelmingly positive reviews. The film is mostly in the local
language of Chichewa. Also, Nigerian-American sci-fi writer, Nnedi
Okarafor is working on an HBO series on her book, _Who Fears Death_
[https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/a27481116/nnedi-okorafor-black-female-superheroes/],
that will be co-produced with Game of Throne’s creator, George R.R.
Martin.

All these films and the upcoming series are part of a similar pattern:
That of the work of African origin actors, directors and/or producers
with one foot in the West, winning opportunities and increased
visibility in the West, while the other foot remains firmly placed on
the continent where they draw their inspiration and stories from. For
too long Hollywood’s stories about Africa were dominated by tales of
war, conflict and white savior-style morality tales and lessons from
the West. It’s the marriage of two worlds and hopefully one where
African stories get to be on the big screen and gain popularity on a
global scale with African writers and filmmakers at the helm.

There’s also a groundswell for movies made by local producers, led
mostly by Nigeria’s Nollywood movie makers and South Africa’s
distribution platforms including Multichoice and Showmax. Some of
those movies are making it on to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

This movement is not without its own challenges—a continent of 54
different countries, each with their own varied cultures and
subcultures cannot and should not be easily condensed into popular
media.

Things have come a long way from the generic Africa accent, cliché
African stories, and generalizations, but there is always more that
can be done to assuage doubts and concerns in a more connected social
media world. For example, news of the _Americanah_ TV show has been
met with skepticism from some Nigerians
[https://face2faceafrica.com/article/nigerians-divided-as-lupita-plays-igbo-character-in-tv-adaptation-of-chimamandas-americanah] who
would rather see a Nigerian woman playing the lead role. It wasn’t
too long ago when having anyone African in the lead roles in a
Hollywood project like this would have been remarkable in itself.

With more films and series telling African stories, with Africans in
front and behind the scenes, there’s hope for more authenticity in
representation. A decade back, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, spoke
elegantly of the Danger of a Single Story
[https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en].
Perhaps by seeing more African stories on the big screen—across
genres (sci-fi, romance, fantasy, biopics, drama, etc.)  it’ll be
obvious there is no single African story, but instead a multiplicity
of stories that speak to the universal human condition.

The fact that this story written by Nigeria’s leading contemporary
writer is now being turned into an HBO series at the helm of Gurira
and Nyong’o gives us hope the _Americanah _fans will watch will be
an authentic representation of Chimamanda’s bestseller.

_SIGN UP TO THE QUARTZ AFRICA WEEKLY BRIEF HERE
[https://qz.com/emails/africa-weekly-brief/] FOR NEWS AND ANALYSIS ON
AFRICAN BUSINESS, TECH AND INNOVATION IN YOUR INBOX_

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