Kenyan docu ‘Ni Wakati’ at the Twin Cities Black Film Fest

The Twin Cities Black Film Festival premiers tonight in Minneapolis. Read the Spokesman Recorder’s Charles Hallman’s preview of the festival here to see what films are playing. There are about 15 films showing at this 3-day film festival.

One of these is Michael Wanguhu’s Ni Wakati (Swahili for It’s time) which plays tomorrow (Sat, Oct.16th) at 7:50pm. Wanguhu’s first documentary, the award winning Hip-Hop Colony, gave insight into the growth of Kenya’s vibrant hip-hop culture. Below, the California-based, Kenyan filmmaker Wanguhu discusses Ni Wakati:

On the difference between making Hip-Hop Colony and Ni Wakati, Wanguhu says:

Hip-hop Colony largely focused on hip-hop as a platform that the youth in Kenya have used to empower themselves and create opportunities while upgrading the image of Africa. Ni Wakati (It’s Time) is larger than hip-hop. Not only are we fighting the stigmas associated with hiphop, but we are also connecting with people of African-descent from all over the world. In the film, we invite American artists M1 of Dead Prez and Umi of P.O.W. to Kenya where they find a brotherhood with Kenyan artists. The result is a re-writing of our story and not ‘his’ story – the Lions have learned to speak!

Why M1 of Dead Prez and Umi of P.O.W. for this project?

First let me say that Dead Prez is one of hip-hop’s most influential rap groups. They continue to take on important issues, to them oppression is oppression, no matter who or where you are. I found this interesting because Kenya’s Kalamashaka and Ukoo Flani Mau Mau are sort of the same, they both speak for the oppressed like Kama say’s in one of his raps in Ni Wakati “…kabila ni mbili, maskini na mdosi” which translates to “there are two tribes, the haves and the have-nots”…simply revolutionary stuff!

We had learned that Kalamashaka were heavily influenced by Dead Prez first album ‘Let’s Get Free’ from there the pieces started falling in place also around the same time, we came to know about the exiled Black Panthers Mzee Pete O’Neal and his lovely wife Mama Charlotte O’Neal in Arusha, when premiering Hip-hop Colony in Kenya.

It was fulfilling to see them come together with Ukoofulani, whether they were eating together, in the studio or just simply discussing as they fought the stigmas that divide us as Africans.

On the expectations and overarching goals of his films:

In Kenya, and many parts of Africa, we grew up watching American television or films, and a lot of our views and perspectives were in one way filtered through the American view. Only to learn that, America is not all that, although they have the greatest mediums to tell stories, but Africa has the greatest stories that are yet to be told. There’s a buffet of stories to be told and for us (Emerge Media Films) Hip-hop is the first serving.

Related to the q above, Senegal has a strong hip hop/ youth empowerment movement that uses the traditional griot storytelling mode that is not necessarily an adaptation of American hip hop. In your research and work do you see parallels in Kenya? other parts of Africa?

Yes I do, it’s a coming of age story for Kenya. Even though we started out by imitating what filtered through the uncensored media, artist across Africa are finding creative ways to capture the fabric of their communities, in Kenya we saw how Kalamashaka played a big role in propelling Sheng. Genge is now a brand to reckon with, respected much like they do the dirty South hip-hop or East Coast or West Coast hip-hop. Those sounds capture the community in a unique way. Some of the best African Hip-hop today is from Tanzania – Bongo Flavor. This is an industry now, employing thousands of youth across Africa and the beauty of it is how they’ve managed to “Glocalize” the solutions with hip-hop culture in Africa.

Talk a little about the exiled American Pete O’Neal, and how his struggles as a Black Panther transfer to the Ukoo Fulani (and others) movement? Oppression, social class?

Pete O’Neal is a prime example of someone who was in total opposition of the oppressive system, came to Africa and created a system that helps to elevate not just him but the community around him. In the film, he tell the story of his transition from a radical fellow to a true revolutionary. He is amazing.

What’s next on the agenda, what’s your next project?

We are working on having our stories seen on American and global broadcast outlets. Seen like we saw their stories when we were growing up. Focusing on the diaspora is next for me and my team.

Finally,

We would like the audience to focus on the bridges that unite us across the globe and not the rivers that divide us.

Originally posted at http://mylowercase.tumblr.com/post/1322632377/kenyan-docu-ni-wakati-at-the-twin-cities-black-film

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