Film Review: ‘The Motherland T

Film Review: ‘The Motherland Tour: A Journey of African Woman’ with Yvonne Chaka Chaka

The Motherland Tour is a labour of love, with a special message from a woman who clearly loves her country, her continent and the people that struggle tremendously to live within it.

Film Review: ‘The Motherland T

This moving documentary starts with a quote:

The curious beauty of African music is that it uplifts even as it tells a sad tale. You may be poor, you may have only a ramshackle house, you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope. – Nelson Mandela”.

This certainly created the theme of the documentary, and given its creator, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, it is not surprising this is the basis, to create this inspiring documentary.

This documentary came to light from following Chaka Chaka on a journey throughout Africa, educating people about malaria and HIV/AIDS The culmination of this documentary was Yvonne’s concert in 2010 at Sun City, after having followed her around Africa for the preceding five years. The Motherland Tour shows the pivotal role woman play in their communities, what inspired these woman to do what they are doing, and what has motivated them to carry on doing what they do. In most cases these inspirational woman did not choose their journey and have been left with little option to do otherwise. The Motherland Tour is a tiny glimpse into a few tragic lives that have created purpose, and hope for these woman, old and young, for their communities.

To understand why Chaka Chaka, the first black South African child on television in South Africa and a superstar singer across the whole of Africa and an incredibly savvy business woman, got involved with any form of humanitarian efforts, you have to listen to her talk about Phumzile Ntuli. Phumzile was a dear friend and back-up singer to Yvonne. In 2004, after feeling ill for just a few days, Phumzile died of cerebral malaria. Chaka Chakachose not to sit back and do nothing. In January 2005, Yvonne was asked to be a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, and she chose to champion the cause of Roll Back Malaria, and her role to educate herself of the needs of the African people began in earnest, helping where she could.

The first absolutely heart-breaking segment in The Motherland Tour shows Chaka Chaka meeting with Hupa. Hupa told her story of how she had no knowledge of malaria. Hupa painfully, and excruciatingly, describes how she didn’t fully understand when she was told to take her son to the clinic, as she never understood that her son was so severely ill and needed medical attention.

“Because of lack of knowledge, my child died. Now I lost my child, due to misunderstanding” — Hupa

The watcher agonisingly knows that Hupa, wiping away her tears, will forever blame herself for the death of her son. Hupa has taken that loss and chosen to educate her fellow citizens about malaria, about the preventions of the disease as well as the symptoms, and how best to obtain medical attention if it is needed. Hupa took this horrific tragedy and turned it into a benefit for her community.

Next stop on The Motherland Tour showed a trip to Sierra Leone, with some sobering statistics. In this, the world’s poorest country, one in five children die by the age of five, and one in eight women die from pregnancy complications.  These are statistics of the Dickens era. The story of a daughter Sia, whose mother died in child birth when Sia was just 13, has inspired Sia to go on to be a mid-wife. Sia partly did this, because her mother’s final wish, whilst she struggled to survive the birth of her last child, was that Sia became a midwife to not let others die as Sia’s mother was.

“There are only 168 doctors in a country of more than six million people” — on Sierra Leone

The next segment painfully turns to South Africa and the all too familiar topic of HIV, through the story of Anna. Anna’s mother passed on HIV to Anna during childbirth and Anna has no idea where her father is. Anna’s mother passed away and now lives with her grandmother, after many years in an orphanage.  The grandmother has lost both of her children to HIV and the grandmother now struggles to live with the orphans of her children, Anna being one. Anna didn’t know she was HIV positive until the school she attends enrolled her into a program to help assist her with her physical and emotional well-being due to her being HIV positive. Anna never says it but you can see that her family life is tough.

But it is when Anna says the words “I think my life will be a happy life because I think about my family and hope,” you are left almost wounded.  There is an almost silent prayer behind Anna’s eyes as she silently pleads for a better tomorrow.

Finally the story of the female Chieftainess Bedyango of the Toka Leya tribe leaves the watcher utterly inspired. The village of Mukuni is the home of Chieftainess Bedyango and the Toka Leya tribe in Zambia which is matriarchal, having had a woman in charge for over 700 years. But this the first time in history, at the age of 42, the Chieftainess, also a grandmother, has returning to a local village school as a full time student to further her education, whilst also reigning over her people. She does this to encourage her community to also go back to school, and also further their education.

A line in The Motherland Tour says: “In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one million doctors, nurses, and midwives are still needed to provide basic healthcare”. This stuns the viewer, who realises how critically under-staffed some medical centres are to deal with so many people’s rights to basic healthcare.

I asked Yvonne how we, as both Africans and non-Africans, can help people like Hupa, Sia, Anna, Chieftainess Bedyango and the thousands of other people like them, and she directed me to the website for the Princess of Africa Foundation. Those who want to help will find more information there.

The Motherland Tour is a labour of love, with a special message from a woman who clearly loves her country, her continent and the people that struggle tremendously to live within it. The watcher is left with no doubt why Yvonne Chaka Chaka is called the Princess of Africa. But equally, Chaka Chaka is no-where near finished yet, and Africa is profoundly grateful for that.

Watch the trailer for The Motherland Tour here: