How ‘Rafiki’ Director Wanuri Kahiu’s ‘Afrobubblegum’ Movement Brought Her From Kenya to Hollywood

IndieWire | 4/25/2019 | Staff
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This is the latest installment of “Breaking Black,” a weekly column focused on emerging black talent.

Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu is determined to combat long-standing depictions of the African continent in defeat. With her second feature film, the **** love story “Rafiki,” Kahiu is spearheading a burgeoning artistic movement she co-founded called “Afrobubblegum,” with the intention of promoting “a fun, fierce, and fantastical representation” of Africa. The ethos reflects a growing frustration with the way Africa is perceived around the world, and it has taken her on a journey from festival breakout to rising Hollywood talent.

Cannes-acclaimed - Rafiki - Place - Frustration - Kahiu

The Cannes-acclaimed “Rafiki” came from a place of personal frustration, as Kahiu has experienced misperceptions about Africa up close. In a recent interview, the filmmaker recalled traveling to foreign countries to showcase her award-winning 2009 short film “Pumzi,” and being questioned by custom agents at airports about the nature of her visits. “From experience, I’ve learned to be always ready with all my paperwork to show that I’m not there to stay,” she said.

In one specific instance, she explained to immigration officials the premise of “Pumzi” — a futuristic sci-fi film set in a fictional east African territory — and was asked why the film was so important that she had to travel around the world with it.

Question - Kahiu - Lions - Hunter - Stories

“I couldn’t quite blame her for such an awkward question,” said Kahiu. “She wasn’t used to lions speaking, because to have the hunter always tell stories about Africa, you would think that it’s a continent full of desperation and despair. So when African artists like myself challenge that thinking with an alternate vision, often we are asked to defend our having an imagination.”

The message for Kahiu has been that, as an African filmmaker, the expectations for the stories she should tell are rigid, and they often come from non-Africans...
(Excerpt) Read more at: IndieWire
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