Sefi Atta’s Swallow Is Being Adapted for Netflix by Kunle Afolayan, with Niyola as Lead

It will be the first screenwriting credit for the Nigerian novelist, who co-wrote with Afolayan.
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Sefi Atta. From Sefi Atta's Facebook page.

Sefi Atta. From Sefi Atta's Facebook page.

Sefi Atta’s second novel Swallow has gone to Netflix for adaptation. It is part of the streaming platform’s three-film deal with the Nigerian director Kunle Afolayan, which will see him also produce a historical drama and a folklore fantasy, both of which are yet unnamed. All three, set in Nigeria, are in different stages of production, and Swallow will premiere first.

Published in 2010, Swallow is the story of Tolani Ajao, a bank secretary in mid-‘80s Lagos, who, persuaded by her friend Rose Adamson, finds herself tempted by drug trafficking. The Nigerian singer Niyola stars as Tolani Ajao, with Chioma Chukwuka-Akpotha, Kunle Idowu (Frank Donga), Mercy Aigbe, Deyemi Okanlawon, Eniola Badmus, and Offiong Anthony (former Big Brother Naija housemate Thin Tall Tony) also featuring.

Eniola Akinbo (Niyola) as Tolani Ajao in the forthcoming film adaptation of Swallow. Credit: KapHubNews.
Eniola Akinbo (Niyola) as Tolani Ajao in the forthcoming film adaptation of Swallow. Credit: KapHubNews.

“The stories are diverse in genre, riveting in storyline and more importantly. . . uniquely Naija!” Netflix wrote in the announcement.

Sharing the news on Facebook, Atta said that she and Afolayan co-wrote the screenplay. “I am thankful to him for the opportunity to earn my first screenwriting credit,” she said.

Atta is best-known for her breakout debut novel Everything Good Will Come (2005), for which she won the 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. In 2009, she received the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. After Swallow came two more novels: A Bit of Difference (2013) and The Bead Collector (2019). She has further published a story collection, News from Home (2010); a children’s book, Drama Queen (2018); and a collection of plays, Sefi Atta: Selected Plays (2019). She was a judge for the 2010 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

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Copies of Sefi Atta's Swallow. Credit: The 37th State Online.
Copies of Sefi Atta’s Swallow. Credit: The 37th State Online.

Here is a synopsis of Swallow:

It is the mid-1980s in Lagos, Nigeria, and the government’s War against Indiscipline is in full operation. Amid poverty and tight rules and regulations, women especially must sacrifice dignity and safety in order to find work and peace. Tolani Ajao is a secretary working at Federal Community Bank.

A succession of unfortunate events leads Tolani’s roommate and volatile friend Rose to persuade her to consider drug trafficking as an alternative means of making a living.

Tolani’s struggle with temptation forces her to reconsider her morality and that of her mother, Arike; Swallow weaves the stories of the two women intricately together in a vivid, unforgettable portrayal of Tolani’s turbulent journey of self-discovery.

Afolayan’s production site, KapHubNews, shared photos of the actors in character.

Deyemi Okanlawon as Sanwo Odunsi. Credit: KapHubNews.
Deyemi Okanlawon as Sanwo Odunsi. Credit: KapHubNews.
Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha as Mama-Chidi. Credit: KapHubNews.
Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha as Mama-Chidi. Credit: KapHubNews.
Kunle Idowu (Frank Donga) as Godwin. Credit: KapHubNews.
Kunle Idowu (Frank Donga) as Godwin. Credit: KapHubNews.
Mercy Aigbe as Violet. Credit: KapHubNews.
Mercy Aigbe as Violet. Credit: KapHubNews.

We look forward to seeing Swallow.

Buy the book HERE.

Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young, a writer, culture journalist, curator, and media consultant, is the founder and editor of Open Country Mag. He was editor of Folio Nigeria, CNN’s exclusive media affiliate in Africa, and has led or joined editorial teams at a host of platforms and projects in African literature. He has written about the Nigerian culture scene, covering innovation in over 20 fields including art, music, tech, sports, cuisine, fashion, journalism, sculpture, beauty, health, and activism. In literature, his Profile subjects have included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Damon Galgut, and Tsitsi Dangarembga. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He sat on the judging panel of The Morland Scholarship, a British grant for African writers, and currently chairs the panel of The Gerald Kraak Prize, a South African initiative for storytelling about gender, sexuality, and social justice. He has an MA in African Studies and a BA in English and History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He is currently studying for an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among “The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians” by Avance Media. Twitter & Instagram: @otosirieze. Website: otosirieze.com.

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