Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives are the latest to join the line up of African fiction headed to the big screen.
The announcement was made on Twitter earlier today by Netflix Naija, the Nigerian arm of the online streaming platform. Netflix Naija is partnering with Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu to execute these major adaptations. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi‘s Wives is being adapted to TV while Death and the King’s Horseman will be a movie.
The partnership comes after the successful re-release of the Nigerian classic Living in Bondage and AY-produced Merry Men. However, this is the first time Netflix Naija is signing multiple deals at once with a Nigerian/African production company.
This is an exciting addition to 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, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death?. Kpano Matlwa’s Coconut Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, and Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King.
Death and the King’s Horseman and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives are beloved classics. Fans of both books are probably wondering what the chances are for a high quality production. Mo Abudu seems up to the task. She was recognized by Forbes Africa as the first woman to own a pan-African movie channel. Her production company, Ebony Life Studios, produced The Wedding Party, which is currently the highest-grossing title of all time in the Nigerian film industry.
Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman is a fictional account of a real life event in colonial Nigeria: the horseman of a Yoruba king has trouble fulfilling the royal duty of ritual suicide. It was performed at London’s Royal National Theater beginning from April 2009 and a Yoruba translation at the National Theatre, Lagos.
Shoneyin’s novel is a gripping, lol-funny, and poignant take on polygamy in mordern-day Nigeria. In 2018, it adapted for stage adaptation by Rotimi Babatunde at the Arcola Theater.
Congrats to Shoneyin and Soyinka!