Late last week while perusing my online gossip sites for the latest celeb scoop, I read the news that actress Thandie Newton is slated to star in the film adaption of Chimanda Ngozi Adichie award winning book Half Of A Yellow Sun. Almost instantly my twitter timeline went berserk at the news of an online petition against the decision to cast Thandie (a biracial woman) as a Nigerian Igbo woman. The petition urges the production company to reassess the casting of Miss Newton and replace her role with an authentic dark skinned Igbo woman.
The petitioners write:
Igbo people, like any other people range in physical characteristics as well as complexion. However, the majority of Igbos are dark brown in complexion. Igbo people do not look like the bi-racial Thandie Newton. Thandie Newton is an accomplished and talented actress in her own right. However, she is not Igbo, she is not Nigerian, and she does not physically resemble Igbo women in the slightest.
This is an extremely touchy subject and I almost understand where the petitioners are coming from. As a dark skinned woman trust me when I tell you I’ve experienced many bouts of ignorance from other people in regards to my skin color. I can’t walk down the street without film, print and TV bombarding me with message “that if ain’t white it ain’t right”. However that being said, I strongly disagree with this petition.
Thandie may not be Nigerian or Igbo but she is an African woman. Newton is the daughter of Zimbabwean mother and a British father. She actually lived in Zambia and moved back to the UK at the age of 11. Furthermore she is an actress, she is not playing Thandie Netwon. A talented actor/actress has the ability to research, embody and take on the spirit of any role. I question the origins of the petition. Why didn’t this petition exist when Sophie Okenedo was cast in a lead role Hotel Rwanda? She’s also biracial, where was fury then? Better yet Idris Elba is in talks to play Nelson Mandela in a film adaption for Madiba’s life. Are we mad that he’s not from South Africa since he was born in the UK?
Let me remind you that the film also stars Chiwetel Ejifor who also belongs to the Igbo tribe. Ejifor an accomplished actor in his own right was born in London to Nigerian parents. Are we going to protest the fact that Ejifor was born in London and not Nigeria? Where does the line of African authenticity start and begin?
|Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie|
The truth of the matter is that Igbo women come in all shades of color, some as light as Thandie. Why do we as black folks/Africans feel the need to slice and dice blackness? When will we stop with the black on black racism? Or in this instance, African on African racism? A commentator on a popular site posted:
In fact, growing up in Nigeria, the term Igbo yellow was often used to refer to the fact that many Igbos are in fact light skinned. To be honest, Thandie could stand next to a few Igbo women I know, who are not biracial and her skin tone would match theirs.
My people, let’s not kid ourselves here, this is a Hollywood flick. Thandie is a great actress and highly recognizable by both UK & US audiences. Nominated for many film awards, it’s no brainer that she was cast as a lead actress. in my opinion this is a step in the right direction for Hollywood, way better than casting Terrance Howard and Jennifer Hudson in a Winnie Mandela movie. At least Thandie is half African and is a very accomplished actress. Let’s give her a chance and stop with the negativity. I for one am waiting with baited breath to see the movie.