Kehinde Bankole Wants You To Know Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti Did More Than Drive A Car

A new biopic centres around Ransome-Kuti leading the famous Abeokuta Women’s Revolt, a resistance movement led by the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) in the late 1940s.

The actress has starred recently in a fleet of arthouse Nollywood films – Sista (2022), Adire (2023) – that have attained critical claim.

For Adire, she won Best Lead Actress at the recently concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA). She also landed the role of Moremi in Disney animated anthology series, Kizazi Moto (2023).

This already sets Bankole apart as a Nollywood star in a league of her own. But last month, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the Bolanle Austen-Peters-directed biopic of the famous political activist hit cinemas. Bankole plays Ransome-Kuti.

How does she decide the roles that she accepts?

“Definitely the story. Is it rooted in something? Then what is that something? And when I find that something, am I interested in telling the story?” she told Pulse Nigeria.

Sometimes it’s just pure entertainment. I just chose like, ‘This is entertainment. I laughed while I was reading the script. People will feel good the way I felt. If I’m reading the script and I’m feeling good I want people to experience that.”

But for Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, it was more than entertainment that piqued her interest.

I felt very powerful,” she said of playing the character. “A very vital piece of history like this should not be hidden. It should also not be trivialised.”

Bankole accepted the role because she wanted to offer more perspective to Ransome-Kuti aside from being the first woman to drive a car and being the mother of the famous Afrobeats progenitor, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

The film centres around Ransome-Kuti leading the famous Abeokuta Women’s Revolt (also called the Egba Women’s Tax Riot), a resistance movement led by the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) in the late 1940s against the imposition of unfair taxation by the Nigerian colonial government.

It should not just be the first woman to drive a car, Fela’s mom. No,” Bankole said. “It was a woman who led a movement, led a people, and even at a time, let the people know how powerful they were. There was nothing she did that she didn’t do with the help of the people. So the people at that time, I imagine how they must have felt so powerful because she let them know how much she needed them.

Playing the role of the activist tagged the “Lioness of Lisabi” has also sparked in the actress a hunger for a similar agitator at a time of unprecedented economic upheaval across the country in contemporary times.

That’s something we need now, somebody to let us believe in ourselves. Somebody to let us know who we are, the force that we are. And that if we all now come together and as a group of people, we can do so much,” she said.

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