“For the gold of Tsilanga”, on Arte: in Kenya, in the open, mining and corruption


This series may well be a German-Kenyan co-production with which Arte has been associated from the start, but we feel that the Franco-German channel is struggling to find a place for it. Aired in the middle of the night, without a trailer, For the gold of Tsilanga is, moreover, in the catalog of Netflix in the rest of the world. And it will be agreed that the adventures (adultery, clandestine birth, female and especially not feminist rivalries, captures of inheritance) which make collide figures which one would often say exits from an equatorial version of the soap opera are not not of those which, ordinarily, animate the fictions of Arte.

That’s no reason to ignore For the gold of Tsilanga. The series exposes the melodramatic ingredients listed above to the winds of the world as it goes to East Africa. Structural corruption, the interminable disintegration of the social order resulting from colonization, the destruction of the environment, the fate of children, come to give a weight that is no longer only that of the spectacle to the issues of television entertainment.

From Nairobi, a financial centre, a megalopolis of skyscrapers and slums, it takes a few hours by road to reach Tsilanga. The rural serenity of the fictional village is upset by the opening of an open-air gold mine, where children work, sponsored by a Kenyan company headed by Vivienne Sibala (Nini Wacera), an unscrupulous businesswoman. Between Nairobi and Tsilanga, the hyphen is called Akisa (Melissa Kiplagat), daughter of a village notable, who has gone to the capital to open a public relations agency there and become the mistress of Max, husband of Vivienne and executor of his low works.

Paradoxical elements

Akisa has cut ties with the village and is therefore unaware that his father is at the head of the movement which opposes the land ambitions of the M mining group.me Sibala. It will take the death of the great elder for us to learn the circumstances of Akisa’s departure and to discover the fault lines that divide the community.

On the periphery of the story, we see the shadow of the endless war convulsing the neighboring DRC (this is the occasion of a pitched battle between mobsters and militiamen) and the influence of European companies (embodied by a sleazy Switzerland) or Chinese (represented by a cohort that does not let themselves be fooled) on the national economy.

Finally, these paradoxical elements that make up the identity of contemporary African fiction coexist. At the same time that Akisa’s mother was accused of witchcraft, even cannibalism, because she refused to say where her husband was buried, a young man from Tsilanga won his first victory against the mining group, by handling with virtuosity the social networks. While the widow and her daughter are forbidden to speak by the council of elders because they are women, the functions of doctor and chief of the police station in the same village are exercised by women.

This representation without much elegance, but always energetic, of a reality which usually only reaches us through the filter of the news makes it possible to fix at a respectable level the price of gold in Tsilanga .

For the gold of Tsilanga, series created by Lydia Matata, Oprah Oyugi, Wanjeri Gakuru and Kimani Waweru, with Melissa Kiplagat, Melvin Alusa, Blessing Lung’aho. (Germany, Kenya, 2022, 6 × 58 min). In full on Arte.tv, from June 15 to September 29, on Arte on June 22 at 11:35 p.m. and June 29 at 11:40 p.m.

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