Why is Lupita Nyong’o making Chimamanda’s Americanah?

By Ernest Bazanye

Ms Lupita Nyong’o pleased news magazines when she announced that she is in works to produce a TV miniseries based on Americanah, the award-winning bestselling novel from Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

This news, from the star of Us, has made Africa ecstatic. If you feel left out, here is the simple explanation.

First of all, when we call Lupita the star of Us, we refer to the name of her latest movie, which is called “Us”. We not only refer to the fact that she is a Hollywood star of clout and stature who happens to be one of us, as in an African, (Kenyan to be specific) who has eaten stewed chicken with her fingers and crushed the bones.

I have reliable sources; a friend of a friend of a cousin of a neighbour of a local villager who told me when she was at their village in Siyaya for Christmas, back in the day, before she became famous, Lupita would literally make the whole leg vanish. Meat, bone, cartilage, marrow and all.

Let’s define the relevant terms. What is this Americanah? It’s a lovely book about a Nigerian woman juggling life between the diaspora and her homeland Naija. It is beautifully written and the story is enchantingly told by author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, who shall hereafter be referred to as Chimmy, because when someone writes something that moves you so much, they get a special place in your heart- you feel love for them and no one who feels love refers to the object of said affections using three names unless they are their 11-year-old daughter and the sugar bowl has fingerprints in it again.

Lupita Nyong’o, or just Lupita, more from familiarity than from the love mentioned above (we like her, too, but mostly as a friend) is a child of Kenyan parents, one of whom is so Kenyan that he was once a member of parliament. But she was born in Mexico, she went to America and as Mexicans are fabled to taking American jobs- she did that so well that she won the Oscar award which catapulted her to superstar status.

She has played a few African characters. She played Queen of Katwe’s mother. She played the action partner/love interest in the action movie Black Panther, and in 12 Years A Slave, she played a slave. It is not clear which generation of slaves that movie portrayed. If she was one of those who had just been imported, then she played an African in that, too.

Chimmy, meanwhile, is like the current, ongoing Chinua Achebe. She is the face of African literature. Even if you have never read a single apostrophe of her books, you had better lie that you have read all novels four times each or your melanin will be burned out by the African sun, the ancestors will revoke your name and accent-and Mamlambo, the Zulu goddess of the sea and current secretary general of the Assembly of Remaining Ancient African Dieties 2012-2022, will have the snow from the peaks of Drakensburg freeze your toilet and block it.

Is making this book a movie an event worth celebrating?

The book is about a Nigerian and Lupita is Kenyan but it doesn’t matter. If she decides to act in as well as produce, she can pull it off. Lupita played Wakandan. If she can play an African from a country that doesn’t even exist, surely she can play a Nigerian.

The book addresses the social issue of identity and the questions that assail Africans who straddle the divide between the motherland and the diaspora. Who then would better produce a film about cultural identity crisis than a Kenyan born in Mexico who works in America playing Wakandans with South African accents?

Will it be any good is the question you should be asking though. Half of A Yellow Sun, the last movie adaptation of a Chimmy book starred Chiwetel Ejiofor (Lupita’s co-star in 12 years A Slave) and only half the internet liked it. Which means yeah, it’s okay, but keep either some alcohol or if you don’t drink, keep your twitter feed open as you watch, in case you get bored.

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