The UK has seen record breaking temperatures this summer, which inevitably encouraged people to make the most of their weekends. Summer also brings about nostalgia vibes and al fresco experiences. We all love a sing-a-long, so bring on award winning and critically acclaimed musicals to keep us entertained for the rest of the summer:
1.The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre – Award winning adaptation of the Disney’s animated film of the same name, has been going strong since 1999.
2.TINA – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre – One of the most highly anticipated musicals in years, showcases the extraordinary life of a music industry heavyweight.
3.Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre – Inspired by the Oscar-award winning film that brought us the sounds of black America in the 1960s and led to Jennifer Hudson wining the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. If you don’t want to see this one indoors, Block Party Cinema will be screening the original 2006 film, al fresco style on 18th August – tickets available via http://www.blockpartycinema.co.uk/
4.Hamilton: An American Musicalat Victoria Palace Theatre – The critically acclaimed ‘story of America’ drew praise and controversy after casting non-white actors as the founding fathers. The production infuses the sounds of hip-hop, pop and R&B; in 2016 it won 11 Tony awards including Best Musical.
5.The Greatest Love of All Show– A Tribute to Whitney Houston, reminds us of one of the greatest singers of all time, that we lost too soon. This is on tour across the UK.
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Yes…let it sink in again.
I was in Ghana when Black Panther was released but my brother (a massive Marvel fan who had so many of the comics) booked tickets for when I returned to the UK. I hadn’t been to Ghanain 5 years! I know, shame on me, why wait so long for 30 degrees heat, fresh coconuts, pineapples and REAL fufu(pounded cassava and plantain – not the powdered substitute we have in the UK)?! I never think of London when in Accra, but this time I was a bit distracted while in the Motherland, not completely, just a little. Black Panther was coming out.
BTW I am not a Marvel fan and don’t know much about the ‘Marvel universe’, apart from a bit of X-men. I saw Captain America: Civil War by chance and that was my introduction to T’Challa aka Black Panther. I was eager to see how an unconquered African nation would be visualised. It’s a thought I’ve had many times before; but now it was dancing at the front of my mind in the advent of the Black Panther premiere. The thirst to see African people living, thriving and loving their heritage because they don’t know how NOT to love themselves, was evident globally.
With the multitude of natural resources and food in Africa, but seeing how the continent stands currently, I’ve asked myself many times….
What if there was no trans-Atlantic slave trade?
What if Africa was never colonised?
I’m not saying the state of Africa is solely down to slavery and colonisation. There are internal problems and we know there was a small section of Africans complicit in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which of course is painful to digest (whether they were aware of the real fate of their fellow Africans or not). However, this does doesn’t negate the extensive role of Europeans in slavery. These two periods of history have probably had a heinous irreversible impact on Africa. That’s what I believed for a long time…and then came Black Panther.
I know Wakanda is not real and some say, ‘it’s just a film’. But it’s not ‘just a film’. Many themes trickle throughout Black Panther, but the ‘African elephant’in the room was the potentially heated discourse between Africans and the diaspora (African-Americans, African Latinos, African-Caribbean people etc.). This ‘African elephant’in the room has been discussed before in pockets of the community. I’ve had conversations with people about it, but seeing it manifested globally on the big screen forces us to acknowledge that this specific discourse needs to be extended.
For the children of African immigrants growing up in the UK / US / elsewhere, it wasn’t always ‘cool’ to be Africanuntil, maybe the last 8-10 years with the rise of Afrobeats. Some of the ‘African jokes’ immigrants / their children were subjected to were from African-Americans and African-Caribbean people. So there has been a long-standing tension and disconnect between us birthed from the psychological effects of slavery and colonisation.
I have never been to see a film twice and I probably never would have admitted it lol! When I did admit it on social media, I was so surprised that a lot of people also PAID MONEY AGAIN to see the film. The excitement of the possibility of what this film can incite among Africans and the diaspora is still palpable…
Seeing the possibilities of an African nation that hasn’t been physically, financially and mentally brutalised but allowed to maintain and advance its heritage with technical innovation, left me speechless with a big gap-toothed smile on my face! It was too empowering. I felt proud, that this image was being shown to the world and most importantly to those who need to see it most – us!
No film is ‘perfect’ and I’ve already and Instagram exchanges with strangers who say the Wakanda ideology is the same as Donald Trump’s right-wing stance and even liking Wakanda to North Korea. Of course I want all nations to have democratically elected governments, but for me Black Panther was about making us proud of our heritage, seeing how valued women are in African society in all their different talents and believing what is possible.
The fact that Wakanda has taken over social media, re-named emojis (see my Insta story above) in its honour and made $700M worldwide and counting, speaks volumes.
It’s not possible to erase the impact of slavery but I hope the discourse between Africa and her diaspora finally mobilises us to create an Africa that is sustainably great. When I say I want ‘a Wakanda’, I’m not talking about flying spaceships or a single party right-wing government, but an Africa (yes, I mean across the continent and not just in one country) with good healthcare, a diversified transport system, advanced technology, where every child has the opportunity to go to school. I’m talking about the promises of a ‘better life’ that pushed parents out and lured them to the West in the first place. Is that too much of a fantasy?
For this to come to fruition Africa and her diaspora must decide to work together. I think we can…but we can’t ‘watch this space’, we must create and be active within ‘this space’. Wakanda (albeit fictional) is an embodiment of what can be achieved when we work together. I loved the fact the main cast represents the continent and the diaspora (Lupita – Kenya, Danai – Zimbabwe, Leticia Wright – UK/Guyana, Winston Duke – Trinidad & Tobago, Daniel Kaluuya UK/Uganda, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan – USA).
Within the much lived up to hype, we can’t forget about the director Ryan Coogler, his interview about connecting with Africa was the most moving one I’ve heard so far out of all the snippets I’ve watched. Growing up in the diaspora with admittedly a colonised mentality at times, makes me feel like I’ve missed out on some of the richness of African heritage. But like many, Black Panther made me feel proud and tempted my faith in something that I didn’t think was possible in its entirety. #WakandaForEver.
I was intrigued by the hotly anticipated 6-part drama, Undercover, staring award winning/ Oscar nominated Sophie Okonedo and award winning Adrian Lester. Not only because they are talented actors and the intriguing story, but in a rare feature on British television, the two leading actors are black.
What’s even more powerful is that their characters and the story isn’t hinged on their ethnicity. Without giving too much away, it’s an intense story written by award-winning playwright Peter Moffat, about undercover police officers, the death penalty, injustice, scandal, blackmail, love & marriage, deceit, neurological/mental and terminal illness and much more…
Undercover displays middle-class people of colour in prominent careers, but most importantly in real life situations doing normal things, that anyone can relate to.
They joys and the struggles of life.
After watching the first episode, I was torn by my own emotions of suspense, sadness, pity, disbelief, happiness and shock.
In recent months there’s been a spotlight on the lack of diversity on TV; from black (British) actors being stereotyped for certain roles and even having to go abroad (mainly to America) to get jobs.
Photo: Des Willie/BBC
Previously, Sophie Okenedo (who is of Jewish and Nigerian descent) stated that she receives more scripts for American productions, than British ones. She spoke about how welcomed she felt in New York, when performing on Broadway alongside Denzel Washington, in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Moffat admitted that the casting of black lead actors was not planned from the beginning, but came about as the story evolved.
Some may argue that why is it worth talking about the actors being black, it’s 2016?!
Exactly, it’s 2016 and there’s still some way to go until we see a fair representation of Black/Asian and other minority groups on British television, but steps are being taken. It’s not completely gloomy, there have been black actors in British productions, including EastEnders, Luther and the ‘90’s sitcom Desmond’s, but is diversity starting to be fully uncovered on British TV screens? Of course diversity doesn’t begin and end with Black people, as the UK is a nation with a rich immigrant culture. Other ethnic groups have the same resources at their disposal to make their voices heard.
Photo: Sipa USA/Rex
Earlier this year, Chief Executive of the BAFTA awards, Amanda Berry admitted that there was still a lack of diversity on screen and behind the scenes. She claims it’s the film industry’s fault for not making roles for ethnic minority actors. Which translates into fewer ethnic minority actors being nominated for awards.
“Not enough films are being made with diverse talent in front of the camera.”
After taking a few minutes getting over the fact that the two lead character were black (yes, I admit it – growing up in England, I’ve watched British TV my whole life and this was a rare occurrence), I became completely submersed in the gripping story. Sophie Okonedo’s intense acting pulled me into her character, Maya, where I could feel what she felt. After that I didn’t focus on anyone’s skin colour, I was just transfixed by the acting, by the story, and the story is the main attraction.
I was also impressed by the acting of the children during the first episode, not because they are black, but because they were compelling and highlighted young British acting talent.
I can’t wait until episode 2, my Sunday nights at 9pm are planned for the next 5 weeks! Here’s the trailer for the BBC1 series Undercover.
Snippets of an African legacy, from a colourful perspective.