A Contradictory Life

Found a female role model in a book and movie


"For Phiona Mutesi and the other teenage girls of Katwe, there are no true female role models to follow. Nothing realistic. Nothing attainable."

You might not have had one, Phiona, but thank you for being a female role model to myself and many others.

From a reading perspective, I have had the best year. I have devoured book after book and have mostly spent my time online watching documentaries. I have had three conversations with friends in the past three weeks mentioning this and outlining some of my favourites and all three of them said, “Why haven’t you blogged about them?”. Hm, blog? What blog? So, here I am blogging about my most recent read (after having to recover my WordPress password and making up pet names to reset it).

I attended the premiere of “Queen of Katwe” a couple of weeks ago and was most excited that we were gifted copies of the book. I always prefer the book but in this case can highly recommend the movie too. The cinematography, as well as the score, was exquisite and perfectly captured a heart-warming and beautiful story.

I, of course, cried throughout but my heart was smiling by the end when the actors meet, and stand side-by-side to, the original people that the story is about. In addition, Phiona Mutesi was at the premiere which I attended (apparently the first time she ever saw a movie in cinema was when she attended the premiere in LA) which had the added impact of making me realise just how true and real the story is. It might be a feel good memoir to some of us but for Phiona, and millions of other women living in similar conditions, it is their reality.

Phiona is from “the largest of eight slums in Kampala, Katwe (kot-WAY) [which] is one of the worst places on earth.” It is a “place full of people with nowhere else to go” but the game of chess which her coach brings to this underdeveloped community as a form of sports outreach manages to transcend Phiona beyond this status quo; “They are driven by the kind of life they lead. There is a desperation in the way they play that you don’t see in the other kids. You play harder when the outcome may decide if you eat that night.”

She is still a slum kid in Katwe, constantly confronted by an environment that conspires against her on so many levels…Phiona must defy Uganda, defy the sentiment that surrounds her, tugs at her, whether it be lethargy or hopelessness. She must defy the paradox of a country so fertile that many Ugandans spend their entire day chopping down tall grass that seems to grow almost as fast as it can be cut, but still struggles to properly feed its population. She must defy her country’s rampant inflation, because Phiona’s chess career needs sponsorship and so Uganda’s economic future is tied to hers. For the first time, it actually matters to her what is going on beyond “just there””.

How does she do this?

Rather than dwell on who they are, the children of the chess project like to talk about who they want to be. They dream. The biggest difference between the children inside Agape Church and those outside is the capacity to dream.”


Isn’t that wonderful? That capacity to dream? Do not lose yours.

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