So we have just gotten back from an early screening of Walt Disney’s Queen of Katwe in London. All we could do as we left the theatre was exhale; not with agitated exasperation (as I had expected we would), but with relief, awe and excitement.
Relief because Disney had captured an African story with an African voice. The authenticity of this true life account was beautifully depicted in bright colours of Ankara, music from various parts of the continent, the use of our language and our rhetoric of narrative to convey a meaning beyond a hungry dog chasing a cat.
The dog said, “Me, I was only running for a meal. The cat, it was running for its life”…These children, they have everything easy [they are running for their meal]. But you [young Pioneers] are running for your life.
We learnt that challenges are not a curse, they don’t make us a failure. Rather, they teach to play better. We were reminded to focus on what we have, to be grateful, even if it is little. We analysed the dichotomy of striving for more and the way it causes us to see what we have in a different, possibly inferior, way. A feeling of not belonging in one world or the other can cause us to wonder as ghosts, dissatisfied and unhappy. And what about the disappointments that come with the failed reality of dreams? Above all we learnt to “be careful of overconfidence. Slow it down. Think it through.”
In awe that a story, so simple in its form could translate in a way that made us laugh, and even moved us to tears (although I will not admit it if you ask me). The strength of a mother, husbandless in a traditionally patriarchal society, carries through to her children. Although there is little she can materially provide for her family, she is able to instil in them values beyond measure. Do we not all know such women? Are we not raised by them, be they our biological mothers or those who take us in purely from out of love? How many of us can relate to seeing our mothers (or mother figures) sacrifice the little they have simply so we can have better; perhaps selling fine material from their own mother, saturated with sentimental value, simply so we can have paraffin to read and educate ourselves.
You see, the story in Queen of Katwe is not simply about chess. It is not about winning. The background of national and international competitions is really an extended metaphor about life, strategy and reasoning. It is for this reason that it does translate so well to viewers of any culture or background.
This, perhaps explains our excitement! We cannot wait to see how the rest of the world will interpret the power in Lupita’s walk as she takes on the role of Nakku Harriet, mother of Phiona Mutesi on whom the movie focuses. How will audiences relate to the wise words of David Oyelowo‘s character, Robert Katende? Will they laugh as we did at the childish simplicity of Phiona, Mugabe, Gloria, Benjamin and the rest of the Pioneers (played by Madina Nalwanga, Martin Kabanza, Nikita Waligwa and Ethan Nazario Lubega)? Yet still, will the obscure story of Night (played by Taryn Kyaze), Phiona’s older sister, transcend into a much needed dialogue about the lengths to which some young girls are pushed to in order to help provide for their families; selling their youth and their bodies in order to feed and shelter those who depend on them?
Disney far exceeded our expectations. I would definitely pay to see Queen of Katwe again!
Don’t forget to follow us on: