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Tisa Chigaga’s Story Behind The ”Bride Of Zambia”


Tisa Chigaga’s Story Behind The ”Bride Of Zambia”

“Bride of Zambia” is a film that delves into the cultural and social themes of Zambia, likely focusing on traditional customs, marriage practices, and gender roles. Tisa Chigaga, being an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, might be associated with the film either through her advocacy work or possibly as a subject who exemplifies the issues being portrayed.

In college, Chigaga could always be found writing scripts and even completed several full-length features, but she wanted to do more, to expand her stories into a different dimension. When she started noticing that people were making films with their iPhones, she thought, “Why can’t I make a film with my iPhone too?”

At the time Chigaga had moved back home to Zambia from the U.K., and had opened a boutique specializing in lingerie for full-figured and plus-sized women. “It was a lot of fun. And I was working on my scripts at the same time, trying to shoot films on my iPhone while running the boutique,” she recalls.

She then applied lightheartedly to some film programs in the U.S. to see if she would get in. She did, but soon found herself unable to raise the necessary funds for the program she’d been accepted into. “Eventually, I got into a more affordable teaching college in the U.S.,” says Chigaga, who studied filmmaking at the Digital Film Academy. There, she trained with digital cameras and learned about sound and production.

That experience helped her build the confidence to make movies on her own, to tell the stories she wanted to share.

In this interview with Okayafrica, Chigaga discusses her journey into filmmaking and advocacy, the challenges she faced, the role of Zambian film and media in promoting women’s rights and empowerment, and her mission to inspire women on the continent to interrogate cultural norms and to tell their stories.

OkayAfrica: Why did you make a film about gender roles in Zambia?

Tisa Chigaga: Bride of Zambia was originally going to be called Kitchen Party, but I had to change it because the producer says it doesn’t translate well to non-Zambians. In Zambia, ‘kitchen party’ is the ceremony that a bride has to go through when she’s about to get married. A fattening room, so to speak. But even outside of marriage, back home, there are these moments of training that young girls go through. You get your period, and your aunties start talking to you, isolating you to advise you about ‘marriage duties,’ how to be humble, how to treat your husband as a king, how marriage is all about elevating your husband.

I wanted to capture that. I wanted to portray how older women often hand down these harmful traditions and narratives, and recycle these values that keep women subdued in marriage.

She also the biggest obstacles she faced in the production of the film”When I was told to prepare for a ton of backlash [while making Bride of Zambia], I won’t deny that [it] frightened me. We struggled with the shooting, the edits. We also struggled with the budget. But in the end, the feedback made it all worth it. I have received and continue to receive an overwhelming amount of supportive messages. It’s all been very shocking — in the best possible way”.

When asked for expectations about the film in the role of ”Gender equality” in everyday conversations which not only in Zambia but beyond she says”How strong is a culture if it cannot survive a bit of introspection? If we have a culture where we can’t ask questions, where we’re told to hold our mouths and not raise concerns? For me, this is about asking questions, about starting an urgent conversation.

People tell me, thank you for speaking up, thank you for starting this conversation. They tell me, ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to say this.’ And that’s exactly what I hoped to do with Bride of Zambia, to open more doors for dialogue. It’s my hope that the impact of this film would be to kind of stop making these topics about gender and women’s roles seem so taboo, and address the harmful norms that are passed down to us.

 When asked”What are your future aspirations for your filmmaking and advocacy work?”

I didn’t sit down and choose to make these kinds of films, but they seem to be the kinds of films I’ve been making. My first film, Frieda, which showed at the New York African Film Festival, was about an illegal African migrant who was working as a housekeeper and being treated unfairly by her employer. Bride of Zambia is my second film, and my third is about gender-based violence. While I didn’t make a conscious decision to make these kinds of films, I like to think these stories have chosen me.

These are the kind of stories my heart and soul want to put out there. I will continue to tell them, because they’re the stories that have to be told as we pave the way for the collective freedom of Zambian and African women.


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