Zambian actress, movie director, and film writer Rungano Nyoni spent one month researching at a witch camp in Ghana to prepare for the production of the 2017 movie I Am Not a Witch.
Witch camps are only found in the West African country and serve as a haven for accused witches who are targets of lynching and harm. Women accused of being witches can be sent to one of these six locations: Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Naabuli.
The Gambaga camp is the most known out of the bunch and houses 100 women in 25 huts. The women are protected by a local chieftain in return for working in his fields and paying him.
I Am Not a Witch showcases an 8-year-old Zambian girl named Shula that is accused of witchcraft, then sent to witch camp where she is tied to a spool with thread. Shula is told that if she attempts to escape, she will be turned into a goat. This increases her curiosity and ignites her longing for freedom.
35-year-old Nyoni took a unique approach to producing the film, she says: “I wanted to show Zambian humour and how we deal with tragic events, which from the outside may seem very inappropriate. But it’s the humour that I wanted to put across without apologising. I am quite an angry person so I have to rein it in and find a different way of expressing it.”
I Am Not a Witch earned her a BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
Rungano Nyoni was born in Zambia but emigrated to Wales as an adolescent and has lived in Great Britain since. In 2009 she graduated from Birmingham University then proceeded to study drama at the London University of Arts, then pursued a Masters in screen acting at Central St Martins.
Deciding that acting was not her cup of tea, she did not finish her Master’s program; she stuck to writing and directing films instead.
In 2011, Nyoni wrote and directed Mwansa the Great which was shown at 100 film festivals, won 20 prizes and garnered nominations for an African Academy Award and BAFTA. In 2012, she wrote The Mass of Men which earned 70 awards and selection to be viewed at 180 film festivals. She’s also worked on short films Listen and Z1.
See the trailer for I Am Not a Witch here: