Ngozi Onwurah

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television by Beti Ellerson. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000. Interview held at the African Literature Association Conference, East Lansing, Michigan, April 1997.

In another conversation, we talked about your identity as an African woman filmmaker based in London.  You stated that you wanted to describe some of the ways that you find that portrayal problematic, especially when it is imposed externally.

As a black woman filmmaker, I get invited to a lot of different things and sometimes they want me to wear different hats.  Sometimes I am a woman filmmaker and that's the priority at that particular event.  Where it gets particularly muddy is when it has to do with being an African filmmaker.  Because the way that black America has appropriated the word African American, the context in which people refer to Africa gets very muddy.

As a filmmaker who works out of London, the problems that I have making films are completely different to a woman who, say, lives in Nigeria, who lives and works in Zambia, or Zaire, or Tanzania.  The problems that she has as a filmmaker are completely different to the problems that I have as a filmmaker, or the people who we make the films for are different.  So, in terms of who I am on a professional level, it gets very complicated.

It is less complicated on a personal level.  On a personal level, I know who I am; I know where I am from.  But in terms of talking about it, you cannot lump together a woman who lives in London, who gets funding from the BBC to make films, with someone who is living in Nigeria, where literally the budgets, the facilities, everything, would be completely different in terms of how she has to work.  So it gets complicated and sometimes I don't think there is enough differential made between black people or people of African descent working outside of Africa and people of African descent working in Africa.  It is two different experiences.

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