Due to migration and colonial influences, ‘fusion’ cooking is on the rise in many cultures. Some people like it others have a more traditional palate. In the UK, some African chefs are mixing things up a bit!
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.
Christmas seems so long ago and the New Year is definitely into full swing; we are in the second quarter of the year with people keeping up with the most generic and popular New Year’s resolution – going to the gym more often!
Since the first week in January I’ve tried to book a place at my local Pilates and spinning class but had no luck until the last week in February. It’s still difficult to get a place in any of the classes where people book from midnight 6 days in advance! I guess everyone is trying to shed the Christmas pounds they gained.
A few days ago, I was able to catch up with the BBC documentary ‘Keeping Britain Alive: The NHS in a day’ episode 1. There was an obese woman called Lynn undergoing ‘gastric sleeve’ surgery to help her lose weight. She has three daughters who are all obese; and was the third member of her family to have weight loss surgery. At one point during filming, the camera focussed on some KFC wipes on her kitchen table, while she was talking about how hard it is being overweight. There’s nothing wrong with having take-away, I do it, we all do but when I saw the KFC wipes, my sympathy for her started to wane, which amplified my scepticism around the weight loss surgery issue:
In a BBC article last week the outspoken poet Benjamin Zephaniah said that ‘multiculturalism is under attack’ because Asian and Black history is not taught properly in British schools. In a week where teachers have been accused of not being inspirational and required to take more stringent tests, Benjamin Zephaniah claims that many history teachers cannot name an early African philosopher. Having been educated in the British education system all my life, I can’t name one off the top of my head either, so I will be doing some research after writing this post!
The History Curriculum Association chief Chris McGovern, claims that parents and children from ethnic minority backgrounds prefer to learn about British history because they are tired with the depressing horror stories of oppression and abuse that surround some of the history of Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. While Benjamin Zephaniah is campaigning for Asian/African history to become part of the school curriculum, some professionals in the education system disagree with him, believing that children should only be taught the history of the society in which they live.
I think history is very important and understand that it does make sense to learn about the society in which you live but when I was at school we were not even taught about contributions of black people in Britain let alone what they did in Africa or the Caribbean, and I am sure that not only Indian children could benefit from learning about the life of Mahatma Gandhi. In the USA black history is taught in schools.
Statistics show that 149,000 British citizens emigrated in 2011; most likely in search of jobs. Britons left for various countries, with favourites being Australia and New Zealand. I suppose with the financial crumbling of Europe, what is the point in staying? With Asian and African economies booming, their British citizens are heading back to see if the grass is greener on the other side.
A friend forwarded me an article by Afua Hirsch, West Africa correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, about Ghanaians in the UK leaving to go back and settle in Ghana. I thought this was quite interesting, especially as I know people who have done exactly that. Historically people usually go back home to retire but now the tide has changed and a younger generation are going back. Opportunity knocks but once and UK Ghanaians are not letting it pass them by.
In 2011 Ghana had the fastest growing economy in the world! While on the surface this sounds great; since becoming the first black African country to get independence the road to prosperity has been littered with potholes.
While things are looking bright for those from the UK seeking new pastures in Ghana, some anecdotal tales I have heard from locals include a lack of nurses in military / private hospitals; so patients’ families hire help if they cannot look after their sick relatives during their stay in hospital. If you go to any NHS hospital in London (or other parts of the UK), it’s highly likely that you will bump into a Ghanaian nurse or midwife, many of them left Ghana in search of job opportunities in the UK.