Film – Ayanda (2015)
Director: Sara Blecher
Genre: Drama romance
Length: 1 hour 45 minutes
After I finished watching Ayanda, I had to go outside, sit in the coolness of the autumn evening and reflect on the lessons I had learnt. When the opening scene begun we were introduced to Ayanda, a beautiful Afro hipster with so much character and zeal for life. I instantly connected with Ayanda as she reminded me of myself, not in terms of appearance but there was something about her that had me thinking “she feels familiar, like a sister”. She is a relatable representation of a young woman of African descent. About 3-minutes into the film we are introduced to the photographer who is capturing the lives of Africans living in South Africa and what it means to be a modern African. This was so close to home as that is the premise of the ‘I AM’ project and when he stated that he felt as people of African descent we were “completely misrepresented”, I couldn’t agree more with him because as the movie progressed I remember noting that even as a young woman of African descent (the Shona people of Zimbabwe to be precise), my perception of what it meant to be a modern African was changing.
I had always felt I knew what it was like to be a modern African but it was from the lens of someone who had been raised in the diaspora. Ayanda changed my perception of South Africa and it changed my perception of what it is like to be back in the motherland and part of the creative class – a group of people who express themselves using the arts. Watching the film also reminded me of the impact of globalisation and the state of affairs in some of the African countries. Not only was the film based on South Africans who were born in South Africa but it also presented to viewers that migration also happened within Africa and that within one country you found people from different parts of the continent who had come for different reasons and whose way of life had become integrated into the communities they lived in. Usually when themes of migration within the African continent are told the narrative is heavily laden with xenophobia and “othering” but in Ayanda it showcased what is the reality of some: they had become part of the community and were accepted and loved. It was a reminder of the premise of the notion of Ubuntu ‘all for one and one for all’.
In addition to not perpetuating stereotypical notions of hate amongst people from different parts of Africa, the film also touched on a theme that I cannot get enough of: the healing power of black love. Now, this is not a stomp on all other kinds of love because love knows no colour but it is worth noting in this particular film the portrayal of black love was positive. When films where there is love between a black man and black woman, the portrayals are usually so nasty. Either the man cheats on her with other women, beats her up or the woman is constructed into an unloveable being who has too much attitude and is always angry. In this film, the narrative was something that was familiar to me, without giving away too much it was pleasant seeing a black man treating a black woman with respect and concern for her well-being and vice versa.
As I sat outside and looked at the stars, I realised that the film Ayanda was not only a glimpse into the modern Africa (South Africa to be specific) that still acknowledges that everything is not peachy but it is not as bad as the narratives that are presented by mainstream media. It was a reminder that the power is in our hands to recreate narratives about our way of life to counter the one-dimensional representation that is rife in mainstream media. In addition to no one getting shot, no one selling drugs and all other stereotypes we hold about Africa the film was about reinventing ourselves through the pains and tragedies we experience. Pain is painful and it can be something beautiful because when tragedy is encountered it can be the butterfly after the rain.
Overall I award the film a 10/10 for its powerful yet soft undoing of negative stereotypes that are associated with the way of life of people of African descent.