Singh, Amardeep

  • Amardeep Singh
  • English Department, Lehigh University
  • Abstract Title: From 'Katwe' to Kahiu: Mira Nair's Uganda and Contemporary East African Cinema

Bio: Amardeep Singh is a professor of English at Lehigh University, where he also serves as Director of Graduate Studies. As a scholar of postcolonial literature and cinema, Amardeep has long had an interest in studying linkages between Anglophone literary and film traditions in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean. He published a book about the filmmaker Mira Nair, Diaspora Verite: The Films of Mira Nair, in 2018. 

Abstract: The Indian diaspora filmmaker Mira Nair has long had an interest in East Africa, dating back to her 1991 film, Mississippi Masala, which depicted the aftermath of the 1971 expulsion of Asians from Uganda. That relationship has continued and deepened over the years, as Nair has supported a film school for east African women, Maisha Film Lab, among whose notable alumni is none other than Kenya's own Lupita Nyong'o. Nair returned to Uganda as a film setting in 2016 when she told the story of chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe. Though made under very different circumstances, the depiction of slum children in Kampala in that film strongly echoes the approach taken in one of Nair's earliest films, Salaam Bombay! (1987). Even as we explore the linkages between the two Nair films, we will gesture to the rise of a contemporary East African film scene, with an analysis of recent films by filmmakers like Wanuri Kahiu and others.