This is the type of movie that deserves a standing ovation. And I am not saying this because Lupita Nyong’o is a woman crush of mine. I was in awe and slightly tearful at the end.
I love how this is the new school Disney classic. This movie boldly took on braving the bull by its horns. It showed African heroes taking on the villain that is keeping African people from emerging victorious at the end of the day; The villain within ourselves! The one that keeps us from reaching high because we think we are incapable or we are weighed down by the weight of comparison and fleeting short-term fulfilment and/or wants. We see young heroes come to terms with who they really are and the epiphany that who they are is enough. It is not about what you have, where you come from or anything else outside of you.
It stares down the false beliefs of what makes one better than another in Africa ;private schools;being well spoken;connections; lovely clothes and a daily slice of decadence.
This story slaps in the face, the belief that your life is as quality as the education you receive;education is the key to success.(Not that I am saying education is unimportant or belittling its value)Education is valuable but it has been devalued because it is perceived as the ultimate crown or the only gateway. Phiona Mutesi the main character is brilliant at chess because of an innate ability coupled with determination to keep improving herself. What is most amazing about it is how she was not even literate yet. It screamed the importance of focusing on harnessing ones innate abilities and talents no matter what they are. It is also important to note that she almost missed her opportunities because of the mentality deep ingrained in her mother by both ignorance and the hardships of life. Phiona unlocked success by unlocking her mind and unshackling herself from the low estimation she had of herself.
The movie emanated the need to get out of the illusion of chasing the water at the end of the mirage. The illusion that the addition of that carrot at the end of the stick will subtract your problems and sorrow. Happiness does not start the moment you have what you desire. It starts right where you are. You have the ingredients to create what you want exactly where you are, both in terms of happiness and success.
It breaks the deep-rooted notion that you get your deepest desire or provision from a man. A widow lost the comfort provided by a husband but her contentment came through her child. A female child ;and not through the treasures found in between her legs or by being married by a prince. But because she unlocked her mind. Ironically not with the African key to success(educational attainment or a man) but with her talent, Chess.
It also questions the impossible perfectionist standard we place on one another as Africans. I have heard people call out or question a parent particularly a mother’s morality because of the behaviour the child. Night, Phiona’s sister was not made of the same moral fibre her mother was. Who is depicted to have never not once compromised her morals even when she was tempted to. You can see how Night despised the impoverished state they lived in and used her female ability to escape it.She probably despised her mother for subjecting them to poverty when she had that card to play.
The chords that exist in a sense of community are highlighted in this movie. Initially no one knew about the diamond in the rough, Phiona but later on she is the area’s legend and hero. The celebration spilt from her family into the whole of Katwe. Everyone had a slice of the joy and the hope that they too may just escape poverty. One of the things I loved most is how this re-iterated my thoughts on how our way out of poverty in Africa is by helping each other. Read my blog post AFRICA AND OUR SHARING VALUES:Balancing The Scales Through Sharing
Phiona and the other pioneers were given hope and a chance to more than poverty had to offer by a man who chose to sacrifice getting ahead and personal comforts for the benefit of others in our community. The root of our poverty among other things is our lack of sacrifice and our selfishness. It’s not just in our leaders it is in our communities, that’s why when we choose people from among us to lead they make the decisions they do. The sacrifice exhibited by Mr and Mrs Katende is nothing short of divine. They indeed were a challenge to me. How much am I sacrificing and denying myself to see the Zambia and the Africa I want to see. Even if it is only in a small way?
The strength of Phiona’s mother Nakku Harriet is remarkable. The strength and dignity she is clothed in leaves me in awe. She lost a husband and a child, she has lost hope of better days but she still did not lose her will to survive. She would not let her dignity be stripped off even when poverty stripped off any reason to hold her head high. Her deep love for her children reflected in how she meted out discipline, protection and her provision. The life of a woman is hard anywhere. The life of an African woman on the African terrain in a slum is a whole different level. The resilience of African women is praiseworthy. Sadly the do not get enough praise or recognition for it. I’m glad this movie did that.
All in all, what gripped me the most is this is not a story that had a writer that cleverly put together these elements to highlight these lessons. It is based on real life and not real life in the reality show kind of way. They lived their lives not expecting their story to one day be told. All this happened very recently. Queen of Katwe gave me hope and appreciation for life and talent. Most of all it challenged me. I have been left with the question what are you doing to change the lives of the poorest people in your society?