Sony Pictures Partners with EbonyLife to Produce TV Series, as Interest in the African Narrative Grows

Africa has often been portrayed through negative perceptions for some time but an increase in interest in African storytelling has helped to challenge such representations, encouraging people to view Africa in a different light.

Africa’s first Global entertainment network, EbonyLife and Sony Pictures Television are collaborating to produce a television series about the 19th century Dahomey Warriors (an all-female West African military group), also known as the Dahomey Amazons.

EbonyLife launched in 2013 and has since been ranked as one of the most watched channels on the DStv platform. Their content focuses on original, home-grown Anglo-African entertainment programming.

With the series being set in the kingdom of Dahomey, the interest in the African narrative has proven to be evident.

Black Panther, a fantasy film based on the comic issues, showcases in the fictional world of Wakanda, how Africa ‘could have been like’ before the continent was colonised through the strength of the people, loyalty and modern science. Directed by American film director, the Marvel box office record breaker, has been applauded for its diversity with the majority of the cast being black.

In the film, the Dora Milaje, an all female security detail, serve as the personal bodyguards of the Black Panther (King T’Challa). With many fans convinced that the Dahomey warriors were the inspiration behind the Dora Milaje, the conversations about African culture and society continues to grow. Although these group of women were lesser-known, they were recognised amongst their people as the Ahosi (“king’s wives”) or Mino (“our mothers”). Similarly, to the Dora Milaje, they were the ones who were entrusted with protecting their king daily.

According to USNews, Nollywood is the second-largest film industry in the world based on the number of films produced; with the majority of movies completed in a week with a budget of no more than $20,000.

EbonyLife founder and CEO, Mo Abudu mentioned in a statement that “Our vision has always been to change the narrative about Africa and to tell our stories from our perspective.

The show will be fictional but “inspired by true events that took place in the West African Kingdom of Dahomey,” according to the statement.

Nigerian filmmaker Femi Odugbemi told CNN, “It’s the first time I think a global company, or a company with a global footprint, is coming to the table, not just to give crumbs but to actually try to collaborate in a way that expands opportunity for creating stories of African descent.”

Ground-breaking film Black Panther reveals that the African narrative has sparked a greater interest across the globe. With ecstatic kids breaking out laughing, cheering and dancing on tables, the change in the industry appears to be revolutionary.

The change has led to more new found talent.

Nigerian-American, Young Adult writer, Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood and Bone which will spawn a trilogy has been picked up by Fox 2000 almost a year ahead of its release to produce a movie. With the book referencing Yoruba cosmology, African storytelling is becoming increasingly populous.

Adeyemi made an appearance on Good Morning America to discuss the release of her book and the process of writing her book. She refers to her book as “Black Panther but with magic.”

She mentions in the interview:

“We have like Lord of the Rings we have Harry Potter we have these stories that we love, but usually in the same setting,” says the author. “So this time we’re gonna get to see the same adventures that we love but in a completely different setting with completely new magic and characters.”

Adeyemi strongly feels that the success of Black Panther has given black and marginalised audiences an opportunity to view themselves as “heroes depicted in a beautiful and empowering way, and white audiences get to see new stories told, and it becomes easier for them to picture a black superhero. Imagination is a funny thing – we sometimes need to see something before we can truly picture it.”

Black Panther stars, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are in the process of adapting Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah into a miniseries of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who emigrates to the United States to attend university. 

With fresh content creating compelling visions of the continent, people can view a different Africa.

Whether it’s on the web, TV or in film, increased curiosity on the African narrative seems to be here to stay.