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Is Africa Ready for Science Fiction?

Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on August 17, 2009

Nigerian Director Tchidi Chikere

Nigerian Director Tchidi Chikere

by Nnedi Okorafor – ModernGhana.com

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some interesting conversations with award-winning Nollywood director Tchidi Chikere about science fiction (Nollywood is Nigeria’s oh-so-popular film industry. The term “Nollywood” is a play on “Hollywood”, much the same way as India’s “Bollywood”).

Chikere has written, produced, and directed over 50 films. He also published a collection of rather chilling short stories titled Strangers in Paradise. The collection includes a novella called “Daughter of the Cave,” which is essentially a fantasy piece. Chikere sought me out after my novel, Zahrah the Windseeker, piqued his interest. Needless to say, I was delighted and honored to hear from him.

During one of our conversations, we discussed my own work and whether it could be translated to film, particularly African film. “Is Africa ready for science fiction?” he asked me. We debated this for a while. Naturally, I believed Africa was ready…ready enough, at least. Notwithstanding my own contentions, Chikere had other ideas.

“I don t think we’re ready in the primary sense of the word,” Chikere said. “We can hide it in other categories like magic realism, allegory, etc, but we’re not ready for pure science fiction.”

“Science fiction films from the West are failures here. Even Star Wars!” he said. “The themes aren’t taken seriously. Science fiction will come here when it is relevant to the people of Africa. Right now, Africans are bothered about issues of bad leadership, the food crisis in East Africa, refugees in the Congo, militants here in Nigeria. Africans are bothered about food, roads, electricity, water wars, famine, etc, not spacecrafts and spaceships. Only stories that explore these everyday realities are considered relevant to us for now.”

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