Chilembwe (c.1860 - 1915) with his wife, Ida, and daughter, Emma, in
a photograph probably taken between 1910 and 1914.
Photograph courtesy of George Shepperson, from his
book with Thomas Price, Independent African.
Currently in the pre-production phase, Chilembwe is
an ambitious project to produce a film depicting the
life of one of Africa’s earliest freedom fighters,
hero and martyr John Chilembwe.
Chilembwe is the first African, as early as 1915, to
attempt to overthrow the then oppressive British
rule over Nyasaland (now Malawi). His attempt was
unsuccessful practically but his rare display of
bravery and patriotism in challenging white
supremacy when it was at its peak earned him a
heroic status. He became the archetypal symbol to
all Malawians who later stood up to challenge
British rule. In his memory, a public holiday is
celebrated every year in Malawi on the 15th of
January and his face is on every bank note in
Malawi. Interestingly however, since his death in
1915, mist fails to clear of his personality and
death, not only locally in Malawi but
internationally as well. While some still believe he
escaped from the colonial forces and went to
America, others maintain that the colonial powers
killed him. Which is which?
Fascinated by the man, FirstDawn Arts embarked on a
serious research to unveil the “John Chilembwe
mystery.” The research has not only managed to track
down John Chilembwe as a down to earth person-
highlighting his shortfalls, aspirations and his
colourful dream about Africa but has also cleared in
part the mist surrounding his death and why some of
his kinsmen to this day still believe he will come
again as the “messiah!”
tracing the history of John Chilembwe, the research
has also recognised the enormous contributions by
other equally important personalities like Joseph
Booth, Charles Vincente Domingo and Elliot Kenan
Kamwana whose sacrifices in the emancipation of
Africa from colonial trappings are quite often
unrecognised or not known.
The screenplay is at an advanced stage. Casting and
principle photography shall start next year (2009).
more on John Chilembwe, check out the following
pages on the World Wide Web (www):
Watch this space for updates!!