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A Nigerian Eco-Tempest: Oguta Island

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Oct 01, 2020 at 08:39 PM in Fringe Projects

A new short film adaptation of The Tempest, now available for viewing, interrogates the human and environmental damages of colonialism. A production of Montana In-Site Theatre, the Oguta Island is written and co-directed by Nnamdi Kanaga, who also stars as Onyeka, a powerfully reimagined Caliban who has the full knowledge of African history and resistance to colonialism. 

The film takes place in early 20th century Nigeria, in the actual island town of Oguta. Co-directors Kanaga and Gretchen E. Minton introduce the film by contextualizing the film within the history of extractive colonial violence in Nigeria, where areas like Oguta were invaded and exploited by European mining, oil, and agricultural industries. 

As Kanaga explains in this introduction, "Oguta Island is a tri-brid of Shakespeare, African theatre, and film." After a musical prologue, the film opens with Kanaga's Onyeka grieving the death of his mother Ezenwaanyi (Rachel Missie), a parallel for Sycorax, who bequeaths him the care of Oguta with her passing. His grief song continues over images of modern-day deforestation and industrial damages, leading into his climactic confrontation with Master Prosper (Marc Beaudin), or Prospero presenting as a cruel European military official who has enslaved Onyeka. 

The film is rich with music that feels a part of the dialogue, and which Kanaga confirms "was performed live on set to accompany the actions in the play." Click here to learn more about Montana In-Site theatre and the production of Oguta Island, and, as Kanaga instructs us, "sit back, watch, and learn.”

[content warning: racist slurs, threatened gun violence]