We would like to introduce you to a production that is far from the pessimistic atmosphere that we are used to seeing in films about Africa: The boy who harnessed the Wind. Inspired by a real life story, the film is a “hopeful African film” about a Malawian boy named William Kamkwamba, who, despite all the impossibilities and difficulties, builds a windmill and brings water to his village with the materials he collected around him.
Adapted from the book written by Bryan Mealer, the successful actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who directed the 2019 movie, also appears as William’s disciplined and strict father.
Set in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Africa, the film uses the Bantu language called Nyanja in Zambia and Mozambique, and Chihewa in Malawi, in addition to English.
The Importance Given to Education Despite the Absence
Especially in the country where the rural areas are even poorer, the people earn their living from farming. Families preferably try to educate their sons so that they do not experience the difficulties they themselves have experienced. Although the Kamkwamba family lives in poverty, they make an effort to educate their children. When the self-sacrificing family, who cannot go beyond feeding their stomachs, is unable to pay for the school, William has to say goodbye to school and help his family facing famine in the field. Known for his interest in electrical and technical stuff, William has a great idea. Finding a way to enter the school library, the boy makes plans to build a windmill with the information he gained from the 8th grade physics book. However, he must first convince his strict and stubborn father and get the powerhouse of his bike.
Cultural Elements: Chewa Traditions
In addition to being a success story, the director impressively reflects how people of different faiths can come together and live in solidarity. The Christian population is dominant in the country. At the beginning of the movie, we see that some traditional practices are added to the rituals of these two great religions.
There is another interesting element that is part of the chewa culture in Malawi. As a matter of culture, after a certain age, boys cannot sit at the same table with their mothers and girls cannot sit at the same table with their fathers. They eat in separate places. In the movie, we see the family together only when the food is running low. As a meal, nshima, which is obtained by mixing cornflour, which is the main food source of the country, with boiled water is consumed. (what bread is to the Turks, it is so to the people of the region).
Why is Africa Confronting Famine?
There are two main seasons in the south, east and west of Africa, the rainy season and the dry season. During the dry season, not a drop falls from the sky for months. In some years, as the dry season gets longer, drought begins and people cannot grow even the most basic foods. For such cases, maize, which is the main staple food of the region, is dried. It is made into flour and stored. However, as the rains are delayed, the flour in the stocks is also depleted and the people face hunger. Rainfall for days right after the dry season can cause flooding. Malawi experienced a serious food problem due to both drought and floods in 2001, and many people in the countryside died of starvation.
A Quick Look at Malawi
Only 10 percent of Malawi’s people have access to electricity. In rural areas where 80% of the population lives, this rate does not even reach 1%.
In the country where only primary education is free and compulsory, only 35 percent of children graduate from primary school. The number of children who can reach paid high school education is much less. While reasons such as poverty and illness are among the main reasons for not going to school or dropping out of school, girls may also leave their education life due to reasons such as marriage and pregnancy. Therefore, every work to be done in the field of education in this country today is extremely valuable. Malawi is home to thousands of William’s, it is our duty to support them.
Reads, writes and draws.