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.

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  • blindie

    I hope this shows in D.C., I can’t wait to see this film!

  • I really appreciate this article! I think that it is important for all of us, myself included, to be more careful of how we discuss Africa. I find myself saying things like “African” weddings or the “African philosophy” or whatever, as if ALL Africans share the same practices and viewpoints. And although I do believe that most if not all Africans share common values and traditions, it is not always the case. So, it is just as important to highlight those things that make us uniquely different as much as those things that make us similar.

  • As a Tanzanian born in America but raised for more than 10 years in Tanzania all I can say is I am still on journey of re-claiming what it means to be African. At first, I focused on nationality but then I remembered that it was not the Africans who drew the African boundaries but the colonialists.
    I am now on a journey to learn more about how people on the “African” continent lived before these boundaries were drawn. I even want to know, “What was Africa called before someone called her Africa?” Does anybody have any good sources to help me? I want to know all of this and more because sometimes I worry that Africa’s tendency to cling to the boundaries drawn by colonialists is a factor in some of its conflicts.

  • Carl

    Keeping it honest, I lost interest after realizing that she (and her siblings) are nothing more than anchor babies. Her and her siblings were born on U.S. soil and raised in another country and ONLY returned to the US to partake in American oppurtunities. It’s immigrants like this that absolutely turn my stomach and act as a beacon of what’s wrong with the immigration system. To say it needs to be fixed would be an udnerstatement.