If you’re a fan of “The Walking Dead”, then I’m quite sure you recognize Danai Gurira’s face. She’s one of those show’s most intricate characters and yields a mean sword, as Michonne. Although Gurira isn’t a newcomer, she’s gaining more attention not only because of “The Walking Dead”, but for her new role in “Mother of George,” as a Nigerian immigrant in Brooklyn, N.Y., struggling with fertility and being in a new culture. “Mother of George” has already received accolades and won Best Cinematography at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
In a recent interview with Salon, the Iowa-born discussed her childhood in Zimbabwe and discussed the general view of Africa as a monolithic place and described just how long the process is of putting together even a low-budget film about the African experience.
You’re a child of immigrants who’s American — is there a pull between the two countries?
Hey! My childhood was in Zimbabwe. Don’t take away my childhood years. Yes, I was born in the U.S., went to college in Minnesota — the Midwest. But when I went to college, I thought I knew America; after all, I was born here, my siblings were born here. I thought I knew America, and when I got back I realized I didn’t know it, I had to really define who I was. I was going to retain a strong and consistent connection to Zimbabwe. That’s my home. I embrace the U.S. as a home. I’m involved in my organization there and things like that. I do feel that it was crucial to retain my connection to my other home. That’s where I kind of find myself. When I’m there, I think that I can’t wait to eat McDonald’s — but you come back and realize that it isn’t good! There were so many virtues to where I came from.
It’s interesting that you’re from one nation in Africa and play a character from another — particularly in light of the fact that many news stories or novels will specify, say, European nations but treat “Africa” as a single country.
I enjoy exploring the cultural specificity of the different parts of the continent. I abhor how Africa is treated as one village. I love the exploration of a different kind of person from the person I grew up with. The difference between the Yoruba and the Shona — Shona weddings don’t look like that, with the beautiful cloth. All the components of the marriage, they pray for her and bless her, the groom has hands put on him by the elders, it’s gorgeous! And we don’t have any of that! What’s wrong with us? We have a little traditional marriage in a living room with tea and cake after. We’re very, very different. The Yoruba are probably more colorful among Africans. And [for the Shona] the British have still not left and that affects us a lot.