The long-awaited on-screen adaptation of Chimamanda’s bestseller, Americanah, is finally coming to life as a ten-episode HBO series starring Lupita Nyong’o and directed by Danai Gurira.

The duo of Nyong’o and Gurira have become a formidable force in Hollywood when it comes to their devotion to telling authentic African stories and especially the stories of women. These days, of course, they’re both best known for their lead roles in 2018 blockbuster Black Panther set in the Marvel-created African country of Wakanda.

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Danai Gurira (left) and Lupita Nyong’o (right)

Americanah has been a passion project for Nyong’o, the Kenyan-born Oscar winner, who optioned the rights in 2014 after falling in love with the novel. Zimbabwean-American Gurira, too on her part, is no stranger to adapting African stories.

She was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway show, Eclipsed, that tells the story of the war in Liberia from women’s point of view.

Americanah is the story of Ifemelu a young, courageous woman raised in Nigeria who as a teenager falls in love with her classmate Obinze.

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Book cover for Chimamanda’s Americanah

They each depart for the West during a repressive time of military rule in the country with Ifemelu going to the US and Obinze to London. Both suffer their individual struggles as immigrants. Despite her academic success, life in the US forces Ifemelu to grapple for the first time with what it means to be black…

Thematically, the story of Ifemelu and Obinze is as true an African story today as it was in the times of repressive military rule in Nigeria that it was set in.  Nigeria still continues to see a massive outflow of people with the rising migration of even comfortable middle-class Nigerians, as the country fails to live up to their expectations.

In the global context of rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the West, backed by right-wing, populist leaders in power, it can be expected that a challenging undocumented life in the West awaits some of those who leave.

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Photo of the author of the Americanah novel, Chimamanda Ngozi

Americanah is the latest in a growing trend of Africa-focused film and TV shows geared for a global audience.  Recent high-profile deals show they are not only popular with all types of fans but also commercially successful. Top of this list is Black Panther, which passed the $1 billion mark within its first month of release.

Then there’s Netflix’s The Boy who Harnessed the Wind, directed and starring British-Nigerian Chiwetel Ejiofor which had overwhelmingly positive reviews.

The film is mostly in the local language of Chichewa. Also, Nigerian-American sci-fi writer, Nnedi Okarafor is working on an HBO series on her book, Who Fears Death, that will be co-produced with Game of Throne’s creator, George R.R. Martin.

Source: Quartz Africa

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