‘Pearls of Africa’ addresses love and prejudice
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Pearls of Africa is a story about Kenya in the late 1970s; the country is in a period of transition and recovery from the legacy of British Colonialism. Racism and prejudice are rampant between native Kenyans and white settlers.
Like most young women growing up in Kenya at this time, eighteen-year-old Tess Jagger (Lizz Nyagah) leads a tough life. Living in a small hut in a tiny village, she struggles for education and independence. She and her two younger siblings, Nessy and Jawich, are frequently the subjects of their father’s rage, even though he left their mother years ago.
Joshua Jagger lives with his new wife, Malo, but has remained in the village and in the patriarchal tradition, he attempts to prevent his daughters’ education, intending to marry them off and collect the customary dowry. Tess has been promised to Elly, who is going to be a doctor and in love with Tess.
But Tess wants something different and, with the help of her mother, Minwa, and her grandmother Danni, fights for her and her sisters’ right to an education. Then, following her graduation, Tess and her best friend Adel take on clerical work at the Road Construction Company, and Tess’ life will soon take a sudden and dramatic turn.
In the UK, twenty-year-old Aaron Rhys (Kevin Leslie) has just dropped out of university in London, much to the disappointment of his father, the British construction giant John Rhys. Aaron decides to go abroad to gain real experience of the world. He plans to work for his father’s most recent acquisition, the Road Construction Company, in the jungle of Kisumu, Kenya. Reluctantly, John agrees to let him go, putting him in the hands of Kaoto (Neil Reidman), a trusted employee who he knows will watch over Aaron.
Leaving behind his childhood sweetheart and fiancée, Katherine, Aaron boards the plane for Africa. Once in Kenya, Aaron struggles as his boss Smith, writes him off as ‘Daddy’s Boy’, but Kaoto and Aaron strike up a solid friendship and Kaoto helps him learn the ropes in Africa.
Through their work at the Road Construction Company, Tess’ and Aaron’s lives intersect and their worlds collide. Working as Aaron’s clerk, Tess captures his heart from the minute he lays eyes on her. She is attracted to Aaron too, but she struggles with what she knows will be the consequences of a relationship with a white man. A black African woman on the side of a white British industrialist? She dares not say how she feels.
Unaware of local custom and culture, Aaron pursues Tess, who fends him off, fearing she will be labeled as a, muzungu’s (white man’s) whore. Kaoto tries to dissuade Aaron, but when he sees the strength of Aaron’s love for Tess, he helps him learn how to attract Kenyan women with the customary gift of pearls and Tess decides to risk everything. She wears Aaron’s pearls around her waist, committing to their love, while Aaron dreams of his future with Tess and breaks off his engagement in England.
Then the trouble starts and with the whole community ranged against them, Aaron eventually breaks his ties with Tess.
She, branded a white man’s whore, can no longer return to her village. Instead, with her heart broken and her world shattered, Tess hides herself away, hoping she will never be found, not even by Aaron.
For his part, although he is now far away, Aaron finds himself unable to forget the woman he loved in Kenya and frequently wonders what might have been.
Lizz Nyagah is a rising actress who has been in several sitcoms including ‘Makutano Junction’,and ‘Me, My Wife and Her Guru‘, and just finished working on ‘The Return of Lazarus’, a feature film shot in Thessaloniki, Greece. Neil Reidman played Lieutenant Atillo in the popular BBC drama ‘Dr. Who’. This is Kevin Leslie’s big screen debut.
‘Pearls of Africa‘ is written and directed by Sharon Angina. It is, for her, a personal journey back to Kenya. An experienced producer and director of feature films and documentaries, she is is known for ‘The Trade Winds of the Indian Ocean’, ‘As Old as My Tongues’, ‘Yes It’s Working’, ‘Capital People’ and ‘The Legacy of Barack Obama Senior’.
Although it makes for a good story, it is a little difficult to believe that Kenya was that negative toward white immigrants in the late 70′s. The film is beautiful though and the cinematography stunning. To learn more about this film, visit the official film website or follow them on Facebook.