January 3, 2023
4 Min. Read

Zanzibar – home of stars

Blizzy moments with Oscar-worthy actresses on the island and abroad

Oscar winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o dives with Zanzibar’s makachus and stars in Black Panther 2. Island singer Siti Amina collects awards for the homegrown movie success Tug of War.

“You invited me and I came. It’s as simple as that”, said Lupita Nyong'o when diving into the sea from the quay wall at Forodhani in Zanzibar recently. The XXX years old actress demonstrated that girls, too, can do what generations of Zanzibar (male) youngsters have been practising as a  - sometimes dangerous - island-typical coming of age ritual. 

Zanzibar, a tropical paradise, six degrees south of other equator, may seem light years away from Hollywood. But, alas, in recent months a fair bit of stardom has engulfed the island.

The power of Instagram

With her jump the Oscar winning star actress also testified to the power of the internet: “You invited me on Instagram and I just came”, she said to the young divers, namely @yessjamal who has shot to sudden fame through his Instagram account followed by half a million fans.

The acrobatic dives into the Indian Ocean have recently become safer when Zanzibari entrepreneur Abdulsamad Abdulrahim, Honorary Consul of Brazil, cleaned up the shore removing debris and stones with heavy machinery, deepening the shallow water (THE FUBA TIMES reported). 

Before, the entertainment had a high price: Over the years there have been several fatalities and grave injuries among the youthful divers who usually pick-up the dangerous pastime at around the age of twelve; one boy remained paralyzed.

Most of the tourists watching the all-nightly attraction know little about the risks, and Mexican-born Kenyan actress Lupita who won her first Oscar for her supporting role as XXX in “12 years a slave” in XXX seemed fearless too. She enthusiastically jumped into the water from the promenade in front of the iconic Old Fort, wearing an orange sundress and matching open-toed shoes. The nightly Forodhani food market is popular with locals and tourists alike.

Black power

in Wakanda

Meanwhile Lupita Nyongo’s latest film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the much-anticipated sequel to the first Black Panther mega blockbuster of 2017, opened to record crowds in America and Europe in November. Zanzibari films fans were still waiting to see the film praised for his strong portrayal of Black women. The sequel cashed in 330 millions dollars at box offices worldwide during the opening weekend. The leading actor’s Chadwick Boseman’s sudden death had weighed heavily on the production. His character has not been replaced in the new movie which also starrs Angela Bassett.

Lupita Nyong’o plays one of the strong women of Wakanda kingdom, a hybrid of utopia and traditional. She sais:  “The loss of Chadwick changed the whole script. The undervaluing of women because of their gender or of Blacks in general does not exist in Wakanda”, the actress added. “This is why the film resonated. Wakanda is a version of the world that we are striving to get to.”

“Zanzibar the real star”

The actors of Tug of War, a film made in Zanzibar and Tanzania’s official entry for the Oscars 2023 Academy Awards, might think similarly – all of them trying to overcome cultural and racial stereotypes in the romantic drama movie. An adaption of a 1990’s novel by Shafi Adam Shafi, the film got great world attention. Especially the entry of “Vuta N’kuvute” for Best International Film at the Academy Awards (Oscars) is a great win for Tanzania. If the film makes it to the nomination list will become the second Swahili film 21 years after 'Maangamizi: The ancient one' in 2002 by Professor Martin Mhando.

 “Zanzibar is the real character and star of my movie”,  producer Amil Shivji said in recent interviews. Much of the film plays in Stone Town. The original Swahili name is "Vuta N'Kuvute". Popular Zanzibar singer Siti Amina who starred in a supportive role in the film collected some of the prestigious awards on behalf of the entire team in Nigeria?. 

Siti Amina: “I’ll

keep singing”

The local production directed by Amil Shivji and Steven Markovitz won three awards at the African Movie Academy Awards – the African version of the Oscars – for best film, best actress, best soundtrack and the Ousmane Sembene award for best film in an African language. Amil Shivji also won as best new director at the avant-garde Seattle International Film Festival and the “Tanit d'Or“ (Golden Palm) at Tunisia's Carthage Film Festival. Tug of War is a film about resistance in both love and revolution in the 1950’s in Zanzibar in the final years as a British protectorate. It dwells on the intricacies of forbidden passion between an Indian runaway bride and a revolutionary Black young man.

The film is the debut of young Tanzanian filmmaker Shivji who said “the main challenge was to keep the story local while achieving international standards”. Taraab music of Zanzibar also plays a role. Amil Shivji is a lecturer in the creative art department at the Dar es Salaam university. When asked if she is turning full-time to acting now, Zanzibar’s Siti Amina, known as a vibrant singer and musician with her own band Siti & the Band, declined: “I loved portraying the strongest woman character in the film”, she told THE FUMBA TIMES. “But I was chosen for my singing and I will continue singing.” 

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