Is Africa Ready for Science Fiction?

So in light of all the bruhaha surrounding the film District 9 and the subsequent ban by the Ministry of Information (seems so long ago now), we found the following piece even more fascinating.  Also seeing that the recently announced Penguin Books Prize for African Literature leaves out authors of science fiction works, it is easy to see how one can come to wonder whether African Literature is ready for science fiction.  In the piece below, writer Nnedi Okorafor (and Farafina author) ponders on how science fiction fits into the African literary scene.  The piece was first published on the Nebula Awards blog as a guest blog post last year but it is still a very relevant discussion:  “Is Africa Ready for Science Fiction?”

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 [a Farafina title available at Kachifo.com and at your local bookstore!], 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.”

Read the rest here.

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