Some months ago we told you about books by people of colour that are being adapted into films in 2018. Now we are happy to learn that literary icon, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Matigari is the latest book to join that list. This is going to be the latest film making endeavor of ace filmmaker and director Kunle Afolayan who will be co-producing with other, yet-to-be-named South African and Kenyan movie producers. Afolayan disclosed this at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Rwanda.
Kunle Afolayan made his name as one of the best film makers to come out of Africa with movies such as The Figurine, October 1st and Phone Swap, and is currently working on Mokalik, an all-Yoruba cast movie. It is, perhaps, a significant point to note given that Matigari, published in 1987, was originally written in Ngugi’s own native language Gikuyu, and Swahili. We will have to wait to see if the movie will also follow in this step, with, perhaps, subtitles in English and French. We cannot fault such a development as it is important that we tell our stories in the most authentic ways possible.
A synopsis of Matigiri—praised for its combination of the novel and oral performance forms—as found on Ngugi’s website, reads:
Who is Matigari? Is he young or old; a man or fate; dead or living… or even a resurrection of Jesus Christ? These are the questions asked by the people of this unnamed country, when a man who has survived the war for independence emerges from the mountains and starts making strange claims and demands. Matigari is in search of his family to rebuild his home and start a new and peaceful future. But his search becomes a quest for truth and justice as he finds the people still dispossessed and the land he loves ruled by corruption, fear, and misery. Rumors spring up that a man with superhuman qualities has risen to renew the freedom struggle. The novel races toward its climax as Matigari realizes that words alone cannot defeat the enemy. He vows to use the force of arms to achieve his true liberation. Matigari is a satire on the betrayal of human ideals and on the bitter experience of post-independence African society.
With classics such as Weep Not, Child, Petals of Blood, Devil on the Cross and A Grain of Wheat, the 80 year old Ngugi wa Thiong’o, whose stint as a writer has contributed immensely to African literature as we know it today, is currently based in the US where he is the Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.