Available on Showmax
“When people remember Liyana, I want them to remember us,” said one of the storytellers in the film directed by Aaron and Amanda Kopp.
A beautiful blend of the unexpected and the known, featuring Durban-born storyteller, actress, author, poet and anti-apartheid activist Gcina Mhlophe, the story of the young and brave character Liyana is told by a group of five young Swazi orphans in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland).
Under Mhlophe’s guidance, the children tell a story filled with adventure and the overcoming of obstacles.
The fluid scene transitions between depicting the daily routine of the children at the orphanage and the storybook animation, with its moving 2-D backgrounds, is captivating.
The power of oral storytelling throughout Africa is continuous and it reveals conceptions of lived experiences and realities – African stories told by Africans. Liyana does just this by combining documentary-style film making and animation.
The story is about a young girl who is left to deal with the wrath of a cruel world as well as the responsibility of finding her younger twin brothers who have been taken. But don’t worry, this story is a triumphal one.
We see resilience and perseverance in the face of darkness and trauma as a prominent theme throughout.
This is a story of tribulations that comes full circle with a heart-warming victory at the end. I couldn’t help rooting for Liyana during every step of her journey.
The tale flows as an analogy for the multiple traumas young children in eSwatini have endured early on in their lives, but the optimism in their voices as they narrate them echoes.
This film brings colour to the issues of the HIV/Aids pandemic facing eSwatini’s children – a devastating but very pertinent reality across Africa.
Liyana is a powerful film of awareness that I hope is made accessible to children and adults across the continent.