Despite the great morass of African literature in the context of novels that verges on the African experience, not much has been adapted for film. We aren’t talking about biopics. One distinguishing feature between Hollywood and African cinema is how the former relentlessly scraps for movies from literature and comics. The Harry Potter franchise, Twilight series, Beauty and the Beast and dystopian novels like Divergent and The Hunger Games. Don’t get me started on the expansive world of Marvel.
Which is why having Kunle Afolayan adapt Ngugi Thiong’o’s seminal novel Matigari is a welcome development. Afolayan revealed this at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) which took place in Kigali, Rwanda. “Ngugi is like the Wole Soyinka of Nigeria in Kenya and one of his books is going to be adapted into a film. It’s going to be a South Africa-Kenya-Nigeria co-production and I’m representing Nigeria,” he said.
Published in 1987, the novel is a moral and political tale in which Matigari, the protagonist and freedom fighter, emerges from the bush in the political dawn of post-independence Kenya. He searches for his family and a new future but finds that not much has changed. The book deals with various themes like oppression, exploitation, inequality and betrayal. Thiong’o is a well-celebrated Kenyan writer with works that span from novels, plays to short stories and essays. He belongs to a pantheon of great African writers like the aforementioned Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, whose works are canonical and with a strong political slant.
We can’t wait to see the adaptation given Afolayan’s large and successful Nollywood footprint, and we’ll update you as the movie develops.