Wanuri Kahiu's films and stories don't need tragedies. Her "Afro-bubblegum" art is fun and even frivolous, and rejects the idea that she needs to grapple with dark, violent problems. At the same time, she has come to see her work of representing herself and her community as a political statement, by putting black people in front of the camera. Kahiu gives her Brief but Spectacular take on her art.
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And staying on the subject of Africa, we turn to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.
Tonight, Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu, who’s using a new style to tell modern African stories.
WANURI KAHIU, Filmmaker:
I am a filmmaker and storyteller. And I have made films and written stories about rusted robots that fall in love, Nairobi pop bands that want to go to space, girls who want to race camels in the future, girls who want to dance in the future, anything that’s fun, fizz, and frivolous coming out of Africa.
A couple of years ago, I was writing a love story, and I was looking for funding for it. And when I said I was looking for a love story, and I approached investors, one of them to me, if you add a rape scene, then we might be able to get you some funding.
And this was devastating to me. It felt as if Africans just can’t fall in love or be joyous. There has to be some sort of tragedy linked to their love.
And I completely, completely reject that idea. And so I pushed back with this idea of Afro Bubble Gum art that means we can be just for being’s sake. We can just create for creating’s sake. It doesn’t have to have an issue.
I always knew I wanted to create stories. But the more I started to create, I started to realize that I wasn’t seeing myself in these films. All I could do was write stories that represented the people that I knew and the people that I grew up with.
But I didn’t realize at the time that I was making a political statement. I was just making films with black people in them.
I think it’s so important to see diversity in front of the camera, if for no other reason so that, when my daughter asks me about the princesses that she sees, and she doesn’t see any black princesses, I can say, well, there’s others.
So, thank God for Doc McStuffins, who’s completely saved my daughter’s life, because she can finally see an image of herself on the screen.
And we work to represent other people, so that the children who grow up after my children can also see images of themselves, so that they can see that they belong in the world that they live in as well.
My name is Wanuri Kahiu, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on Afro Bubble Gum.
And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at pbs.org/newshour/brief.