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South African production company KIWI Films has recently optioned novelist Kopano Matlwa’s debut Coconut for a feature film adaptation. The Pontas Agency, Matlwa’s agents, announced the sale of the novel’s audiovisual rights on November 21, 2019.

Published by Jacana Media in 2007, Coconut addresses issues of race, class and colonization in South Africa. It was awarded the European Union Literary Award in 2006/07 and the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2010. Here is a description from Amazon:

An important rumination on youth in modern-day South Africa, this haunting debut novel tells the story of two extraordinary young women who have grown up black in white suburbs and must now struggle to find their identities. The rich and pampered Ofilwe has taken her privileged lifestyle for granted, and must confront her swiftly dwindling sense of culture when her soulless world falls apart. Meanwhile, the hip and sassy Fiks is an ambitious go-getter desperate to leave her vicious past behind for the glossy sophistication of city life, but finds Johannesburg to be more complicated and unforgiving than she expected. These two stories artfully come together to illustrate the weight of history upon a new generation in South Africa.

Kopano was signed by Pontas Literary & Film Agency in October 2016. On top of being an award-winning writer, Kopano is a medical doctor. Interestingly, she wrote Coconut while completing her medical degree at the University of Oxford. She is currently Executive Director of Grow Great ―a campaign aimed at mobilising South Africa towards achieving a generation free from stunting (i.e., child physical underdevelopment) by 2030. Kopano is also an elected board member of Health Systems Global, the world’s first international society dedicated to health systems strengthening and knowledge translation. Additionally, she is the founder of Transitions Foundation, an organization that seeks to help South Africa’s youth transition from hopelessness to personal fulfillment through education. In 2016, she was named as one of South Africa’s game changers in a recent project, 21 Icons, which celebrates young South African talent in honor of Nelson Mandela.

Coconut joins an ever-growing number of African novels to cross into the motion picture and television industry over the past five years: Jacqui L’Ange’s The Seed Thief, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation, Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls, and Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death?.

Congratulations to Kopano Matlwa! We can’t wait for to see Coconut on the big screen.

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