“A Fork, A Spoon and A Knight”

Uganda Uganda Uganda

A couple of years back, a very important book was released about a girl from a poor African village. Her name was “Phiona”… from one of the poorest continents, poorest countries, poorest city and… a girl. It was a gripping story which showed how difficult life can be for some in African villages.

Phiona’s life was characterized in “The Queen of Katwe” a book that received high acclaim and afforded her the opportunity to travel the world and tell her captivating story. Her biopic will be produced into a movie with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o playing the lead. The mentor who discovered her was named “Robert”.

Robert Katende, left, at the chessboard in Katwe, Uganda, with Phiona Mutesi, the girl who he believed he could teach to become a prophet and eventually a national chess champion. (David Johnson photo / Silentimages.org)

Robert Katende (left) in Katwe, Uganda, with Phiona Mutesi.
Photo by David Johnson, Silentimages.org.

In fact Robert had a similar background and was orphaned early. His outlet was soccer and he remember the lessons that he learned from his boyhood and decided to start a similar program with chess. A short video produced by Mira Nair tells the story of Robert Katende.

The beauty is that these stories are not about chess as much as they are about finding an outlet to realize one’s potential. Similar stories have been told by professional athletes in many sports. However, this video gives us just enough to realize how precious of a lesson it brings.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

3 Comments

  1. What a beautiful little film. Robert had a tough childhood yet he used that be strong and to help the children of Katwe. I look forward to seeing the movie about Phiona. I hope they will incorporate Robert’s story into it.

  2. I watched A Knife A Fork and A Knight after seeing the film Queen of Katwe.
    I had found the film moving, but wondered whether it had altered the back story to make a better film.
    It appears not.
    The story of Robert Katende’s dedication to his young students, his wish to help them to develop resilience in the face of adversity, is both inspiring and moving.
    Go and see the film if you can!

    1. Not altered. There is more detail in the book of course, but the scenes are pretty much what you have in the book. Of course there will always be question on how much of a chess champion Phiona is, but one thing cannot be questioned … she’s a champion in life!

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