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Arts & Culture

Interview with Tim Crothers, Author of ‘Queen of Katwe’

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Ugandan national chess champion Phiona Mutesi arrives at the world premiere of Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” at Roy Thompson Hall

Ugandan national chess champion Phiona Mutesi arrives at the world premiere of Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” at Roy Thompson Hall

Africa in general has its fair share of underdogs who rise up above tough circumstances to do extraordinary things and Phiona Mutesi is one of them. Her living situation was dire, she smelled so badly as a survival tactic to avoid the possibility of getting molested in the street. Today her story will be gracing the silver screen.

Queen of Katwe is a 2016 biographical sports drama film that depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess player from Katwe who becomes a Woman Candidate Master after her performances at World Chess Olympiads. The film stars David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, and Madina Nalwanga.

The film is produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN Films, and will be released in North America today, September 23, 2016, and will be followed by a general theatrical release on September 30.

Phiona Mutesi’s story would not have gotten the attention it deserved if it were not for Tim Crothers, a former Sports Illustrated senior writer who wrote Mutesi’s story in an article that appeared in ESPN Magazine’s Jan. 10, 2011 edition.

When Tim Crothers first met Phiona Mutesi in Uganda, she was very shy and not comfortable with talking about herself. It took a game of chess between Crothers and Mutesi in Siberia, where the 2010 Chess Olympiad was taking place, to break the ice.

“To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. And finally, to be female is to be an underdog in Katwe.”

Tim Crothers, ESPN the Magazine, “Game of Her Life”

Today, what was once an article of an underdog in the slums of Uganda has morphed into a book and a movie. Proceeds from both mediums have changed Phiona’s life for the better as has the lives of those who draw inspiration from her story.

AV: What inspired you to write a story about Phiona Mutesi?

Tim Crothers: When I first heard the story of a 9-year-old girl who was basically homeless in a Ugandan slum, couldn’t read or write and was essentially homeless suddenly stumbling upon the game of chess, a game so foreign there is no word for it in her native language, and four years later becoming an international chess champion I couldn’t wait to find out more details. I love stories of underdogs and Phiona is the ultimate underdog.

AV: Why is the book titled “Queen of Katwe”?

Tim Crothers: It’s a play on the game of chess and the fact that the queen is the most powerful piece on the board, but I had no idea when I wrote the book that Phiona would actually become an important female voice in Katwe and all over Uganda, really. So she really could become the queen of Katwe.

AV: Did Mutesi’s story change you?

Tim Crothers: Of course. Just having the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time changed me. The experience has redefined the meaning of the word “hope” in my eyes. Phiona had no reason for hope, yet she never gave up, never surrendered despite her desperate circumstances and I love to visit Katwe because of the hope I always see there despite the trying circumstances.

AV: With the movie coming out this week, what will you like the audience to take away from this story?

Tim Crothers: I hope audiences will see that you should always dream big. Most girls in Katwe aren’t encouraged to dream, but Phiona was given a chance to dream by Robert Katende and his chess program and once she was allowed to have a dream, she has pursued it relentlessly even when it seemed impossible. All of us should pursue our own dreams with that level of hope and faith

AV: Did you approach Disney or did Disney approach you on this story?

Tim Crothers: Disney approached me to option the story for the film. At first, I wasn’t sure that it would ever be made into a film, but Disney obviously saw the power of Phiona’s story and transformed my book to the screen expertly and beautifully.

AV: How will you describe the transformation you now see in Phiona as compared to your first encounter?

It is hard to believe that Phiona is the same girl that I first met in 2010. At that time she was a shy 14-year-old who wouldn’t look me in the eye and answered my questions with one word whenever possible. At that time she had only left the Kampala area once in her life. Now she is a poised, confident, curious 20-year-old who asks me more questions than I ask her. She has traveled to Russia, Norway, Turkey, Dubai, Azerbaijan, all over Africa and several times to the U.S. All of that travel has helped her mature very quickly.

Tim Crothers' family with Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi

Queen of Katwe Author, Tim Crothers’ family with Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi

 

The Movie

 

Disney Queen of Katwe Production

Tendo Nagenda

Queen of Katwe comes out in select theaters today. The authenticity of the story on the big screen was made possible by Disney’s senior executive, Tendo Nagenda, whose father is Ugandan. After Disney optioned the rights to do the movie, it was Nagenda who developed the project into production working with Director Mira Nair. This is Disney’s first feature film that is not about animals in the jungle.

‘Queen of Katwe’ movie Trailer

Editor’s Note

Africa has it’s fair share of strife but with it comes stories that will inspire, stories to be celebrated, people to be revered. This is one such story and it is our hope that it will encourage many others to be told, stories that are uplifting and shift from the typical themes that often shape how the continent is perceived. While the responsibility remains primarily ours as Africans, it is important to also celebrate those who trouble themselves to tell our stories authentically, showing how we as Africans pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make the most of our circumstances.

– Belle Niba

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TV and Movies

Nollywood Movie Featuring Beverly Naya and Mawuli Gavor Premieres At Cannes Film Festival

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Nigerian movies are gradually gaining recognition on the international stage. Every year, filmmakers from around the world attend the Cannes Film Festival to showcase their works cut across all genres. Consequently, Nigeria’s romantic movie, ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Two Weeks In Lagos’ is one of the two African movies to screen at the event. The other is ‘Atlantics’ by Matip Diop, a Senegalese French director. The Kathryn Fasegha’s directorial was screened at the Pavillion Afriques dedicated to Pan-African film industry on Friday, May 17. A worldwide screening will follow subsequently. The award-winning writer and director said,

“I am very excited to be at the Cannes Film Festival. For me, it’s not just about directing a movie, it is also exciting to see my movie placed at one of the biggest film platforms in the world.”

Now in its 72nd edition, the Cannes Film Festival opened on the 14th of May and will end on May 25. The Canadian-based filmmaker thanked everyone that contributed to the success of ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’.

“The Cannes film festival is one where movies from different parts of the world are showcased to promote film making. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to bringing this movie to life, from the cast to the crew and everyone indeed.”

A peek into ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’

Two Weeks In Lagos’ captures the vibrant and exciting everyday life in Lagos. However, it also portrays the complexity of the city where anything is possible within a short time. The movie follows the turbulent and thrilling romantic relationship existing between Lola (Beverly Naya) and Ejikeme (Mawuli Gavor).

https://www.instagram.com/twoweeksinlagos/?utm_source=ig_embed

Ejikeme is an investment banker in the United States. However, his path cross with Lola when he comes home (Nigeria) to invest. Theirs is a case of love at first sight. However, they have to fight the sinister motive of Ejikeme’s mother who is making plans for him to marry the only daughter of a political juggernaut, Otumba Ayodeji.

Ayodeji is making plans to pick Ejikeme’s father as his running mate for the Presidency. A clash of interest between Ejikeme and his mother also puts Lola’s family in danger. Other casts of the movie include Joke Silva, Jide Kosoko, Toyin Abraham, and Shaffy Bello. Consequently, Mawli Gavor, Beverly Naya, and Joke Silva are in France for the premiere.

Matip Diop’s Atlantics

Unlike ‘Two Weeks In Lagos’, Matip Diop’s ‘Atlantics’ also made history at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie screened in the Palme d’Or on the 16th of May. Palme d’Or is a competition segment of the film festival. Consequently, in the 72 years history of the Cannes Film Festival, this is the first time an African movie will be screening in this category. Reacting to this development, Diop said,

“It’s pretty late and it’s incredible that it is still relevant. My first feeling to be the first black female director was a little sadness that this only happened today in 2019. But if for some young black female film directors I can represent a new dynamic, I’m obviously extremely happy.”

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Music

Top 10 Most Popular Songs From Davido

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Unlike many artists that base their success on the number of studio albums they have, Davido has just one. However, since coming into the music industry in 2011 he has not shown signs of slowing down. Each year he thrills fans with solo tracks or collaborations that quickly turn to an anthem. Here are 10 of Davido’s most popular songs.

  1. Fall

Not many critics gave Davido a chance when he released Fall in 2017. Fall was his second single for the year and a follow-up to ‘IF’. However, a few weeks after its release ‘Fall’ became the top pick for most celebrations, thanks to its comic love lyrics. With over 100 million YouTube views and platinum rank by the Recording Industry of South Africa (RISA), ‘Fall’ is by far his most popular song.

  1. If

Released in February 2017, ‘If’ has garnered over 77 million views on Youtube. The phrase ‘30 billion for the account’ has become a popular slogan in the country and beyond. ‘If’ also earned the singer awards like Best African Act (MTV EMA), Best Worldwide Act, and Artist of the Year.

  1. Aye

Aye is a love song. Released days before Valentine’s Day gave the song a head start. The lyrics which separates true love from materialism quickly caught the attention of fans. Davido went ahead to win the prestigious Headies song of the year award in 2014 for Aye. Aye has over 53 million views on YouTube.

  1. FIA

Davido fans will not forget 2017 in a hurry. Late in that year Davido released FIA which is another love song told in a comic way. Fia has also garnered over 59 million views on YouTube

  1. Skelewu

The popularity of skelewu cannot be separated from its unique dance step. At that time people were scampering to participate in what would have been tagged ‘Skelewu dance challenge’ today. Ace footballers like Samuel Eto’o and Emmanuel Adebayo were caught dancing to the song.

  1. Assurance

Davido is familiar with drama and keeps his love affair public. Earlier in 2018, Davido broke the Internet when he released the song ‘Assurance’ dedicated to his long-time girlfriend, Chioma. What thrilled fans the most is the Porsche with a custom plate number ‘Assurance’ the artist gifted his girlfriend. The song has over 36 million views on YouTube.

  1. Dami Duro

Full of energy and new in the industry, ‘Dami Duro’ was more of a statement of his intention. The song and its strong beat quickly became a major club song. The song also won the ‘Hottest single of the Year’ at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

  1. Back When

‘Back When’ is one of Davido’s breakthrough songs. It was the first off his debut album, ‘Omo Baba Olowo’. He featured established rapper, Naeto C on the track. The single won him the 2012 ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Kora Awards.

  1. Ekuro

Davido’s history of love songs began with Ekuro which was released in 2012. After making a hard entrance the previous year, Davido showed off his romantic side in Ekuro. The success of Ekuro paved way for other romantic hits.

  1. All of You

Davido used this track to pay respect to veterans like D’banj, P-Square, and 2baba who were already household names. Released in 2012, ‘All of you’ quickly became a hit.

Which of Davido’s songs do you like the most?

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Books

Zambian Author Wins The Commonwealth Short Story Prize For Africa

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Commonwealth Short Story Prize has announced the list of regional winners. Zambia’s Mbozi Haimbe is Africa’s regional winner. However, she is the second Zambian to achieve that feat. Haimbe won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her short story, “Madam’s Sister”.

The last time someone from Zambia won a commonwealth story prize was in 2007. Ellen Banda-Aaku took home the Commonwealth Short Story Competition (now defunct) for her short story, “Sozi’s Box”. Reacting to the announcement, Haimbe said,

“I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as the regional winner and feel privileged to contribute to Africa’s literary landscape. Although a social worker by profession, I have always considered myself a writer. Winning the regional prize validates my aspiration. I thank the judges, and give acknowledgment to Zambia, which remains deeply influential to my writing.”

A brief biography of Mbozi Haimbe

The story of Mbozi Haimbe is a reassurance that you can aspire any height irrespective of your background. Notwithstanding Haimbe was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia she believed she could make it to the global stage. Consequently, her passion for writing led her to the University of Cambridge where she completed an Mst in Creative writing in 2018. Mbozi Haimbe is currently working on a short story collection inspired by African events. The summary of her Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning story, “Madam’s Sister” says,

“The arrival of madam’s sister from London causes upheaval within the household but has an unexpected bonus for the guard, Cephas.”

Each regional winner will get £2,500. However, the global winner selected from the regional winners will get £5,000. Till date, only one African has been able to will the overall prize. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi went ahead to win the overall prize in 2014 after winning the regional prize for her short story, “Let’s Tell This Story Properly”.

About the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual award open from 1st September to 1st November every year. Authors from commonwealth regions are encouraged to submit unpublished short story between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Now in its 8th year, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize received a total of 5,081 entries. However, this was streamlined to 21 shortlists. Sixteen of the 53 British Commonwealth nations made it to the shortlist. Speaking about the regional winners, Caryl Phillips, one of the jurors for the 2019 competition said,

“The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse, and neglect. What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognize, universal emotions of pain and loss.”

Submission of entries for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize can be in Turkish, Tamil, Swahili, Samoan, Portuguese, Malay, Greek, English, Chinese, and Bengali. However, English translations of shorts stories in other languages are also eligible. The Digital Director and Online Editor and Granta, Luke Neima, said,

“This year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning stories showcase the short story in a range of guises, innovations of form that stretch but never exhaust the potential of the short story to address the regional and universal questions this gifted crop of authors seeks to address. These outstanding stories capture the breadth of talent writing today across the Commonwealth.”

Other regional winners

In total, there are 5 regions considered for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This includes Africa, Asia, Canada & Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. The other regional winners and their stories are;

  • Asian Winner: Saras Manickam from Malaysia for “My Mother Pattu”
  • Canada and Europe Winner: Constantia Soterious from Cyprus for “Death Customs”
  • Caribbean Winner: Alexis Tolas from The Bahamas for “Granma’s Porch”
  • Pacific Winner: Harley Hern from New Zealand for “Screaming”.

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