Reviews: what we loved in 2018
Dir. Ema Edosio, Nigeria
This directorial debut by Ema Edosio (top photo) is an ode to the hustle and bustle of Lagos life, which she describes as a love story between herself and the city. Kasala! means trouble in Pidgin and this refreshing, hilarious and fast-paced film feels very authentic. Within 24 hours, it follows a group of four boys, one of whom comes up with the plan to steal his uncle Teju’s car. The boys take it for a joyride and when things go wrong they turn to their Lagos street smarts to fix the uncle’s car. Kasala! had its world premiere at the NollywoodWeek Paris Film Festival in May and has since screened at Film Africa London.
Dir. Hajooj Kuka, Sudan
Adnan is a young, idealistic, AK-47-toting revolutionary. He is also madly in love with his girlfriend, Lina. After he and fellow soldier Absi fail to return to duty, an aKasha is launched by the army commander to round up soldiers that are AWOL. Through a series of comical events in which Adnan and Absi must figure out a way to escape their superiors and for Adnan to get his hands back on his prized gun, the film takes the audience through 24 hours in the rebel-held villages in Sudan. In 2014 director Hajooj Kuka became known with his hit music documentary Beats of The Antonov. aKasha is making the festival rounds in 2019.
Dir. Dieudo Hamadi, DRC
A group of young people are gathered together, protesting peacefully in a public space. Suddenly, a jolt moves through the crowd and they run off. A camera is there the whole time, running, trembling, then comes to a halt. Congolese director Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary follows a group of activists demonstrating against the third re-election of Congolese president Joseph Kabila in 2015, risking their freedom and their lives. The film won best doc at the prestigious documentary film festival É Tudo Verdade in Rio de Janeiro. It is Hamadi’s third film centring on Congo and its failed state.
We Need Prayers
Dir. The Nest Collective, Kenya
We Need Prayers is a mini-series directed by the uber-talented, multidisciplinary art squad The Nest Collective. For the past six years the Kenyan collective has made numerous avant garde films including the fashion short To Catch a Dream and Stories of our Lives, a feature film made up of five shorts on real life LGBT stories from Kenya. This web series consists of 10 episodes, each lasting about 10 minutes, exploring the dichotomies of contemporary living in Nairobi: hustling artists, 21st-century dating and romance are among the subjects tackled with a playful and magnified lens.
Silence is My Mother Tongue
Addonia offers a unique telling of the tragedy of displacement. Saba, the 17-year-old heroine, wrestles with what it means to be a woman in a damaged world. Jamal, her mute brother, offers his body for his sister’s independence. Silence is My Mother Tongue presents an intimate and gutsy novel of life in a refugee camp, packed with dark humour and sheer human tenderness.
House of Stone
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Tshuma’s debut novel is a searing indictment of Zimbabwe’s history. In this richly embellished retelling of the past, we are left with no heroes or victors. Zamani plies his surrogate father, Abednego, a recovering alcoholic, with whisky, in exchange for personal stories that will enable him to reconstruct the country’s “hi-story”. What unfolds is more than he bargained for.
Children of Blood and Bone
Based on various African mythologies, a magnificent universe forms the background to an epic family drama. The land of Orisha is caught in a bitter conflict as the despotic King Saran sets out to eradicate magic. Can Zelie, our young sorceress, protect her people? With an ingenious twist, the novel takes its inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Strings and Bling
Strings and Bling is the most streamed hip-hop album on the continent – a feat that’s unsurprising for the self-proclaimed “coolest kid in Africa”. By hopping on multiple hit songs by the likes of Runtown, Davido and Kwesi Arthur, Nasty C (above) is one of a few South African rappers making strides towards continental domination, despite an American hip-hop accent that might usually alienate the mainstream.
19, the album by MHD, includes features from Wizkid, Salif Keïta, Yemi Alade, Orelsan and Dadju, in homage, it would appear, to Paris’s 19th arrondissement and his African heritage. Nineteen tracks can feel like a drag in parts. But where it’s not, this is a fun exploration of pan-cultural synergies that colourfully paints the picture of millennial, third-culture living and identity.
We first heard of Wanja Wohoro on Dust, a joint project with fellow Kenyan, Jinku. On Matriarch she makes a powerful stand on her own. The groove is soft but the intention is by no means meek. Her message is a takedown of patriarchy as she sees it. Sonically, the marriage of Kikuyu melodies with neo-soul sensibilities warms the soul along this journey of self-affirmation.
Express Vol. 2
Cameroonian singer Reniss’s production is, as always, in the capable hands of her label boss Jovi Le Monstre. Over time the two have crafted a sound they call Mboko pop, blending traditional Cameroonian rhythms with a pop and R&B appeal. Reniss is as versatile as ever, singing in Nguemba, Pidgin, English and French on a 4-track EP packed with the right balance of grit and finesse.
This article first appeared in December-January 2019 print edition of The Africa Report