African Women Seizing The Screen

By Jackie Edwards

Thanks to its striking scenery and unique architecture, the continent of Africa has played set to some of the biggest and best films and TV shows across the globe.

Famous Scenes

Star Wars’ dusty sand-planet of Tatooine was filmed in Tunisia; District 9 famously and explicitly in South Africa. In terms of worlds closer to the one we know today, there have been a litany of pictures snapped in Africa, from ‘Blood Diamond’ to ‘Tsotsi’.  The worldwide sensation that is ‘Game of Thrones’ has created an entire industry in Europe’s Croatia, but not many know about the incredible scenery offered by Essaouira and Ait Benhaddou. ‘Wild at Heart’, a sensation in the UK, was filmed exclusively in South Africa.

Sadly, most of these pictures do not depict the beautiful side of Africa, and much less depict women in any sort of strong role.

Africans In Global Films

Film-makers often opt for American actors, even for African stories. The critically acclaimed ‘Hotel Rwanda’ used Don Cheadle; The Last ‘King Of Scotland’ casted Forest Whitaker as the unpredictable Idi Amin. Another recurring theme is the lack of African women in these leading roles.

As previously mentioned, ‘Wild At Heart’ starred South Africa’s own Nomsa Xaba as the paragon of trustworthiness and wisdom, Nomsa Nguni. But who else has represented the continent around the world?

African Actresses Taking The Lead

Liya Kebede found international stardom from modelling and fashion, but even moreso from her starring roles in ‘Lord of War’ and ‘Black Gold’, among other films. The Ethiopian-born actress has proved to be an excellent role model, giving virtuoso acting performances and using her influence in driving her efforts into philanthropy.

Also, ensnaring the imaginations of moviegoers around the world has been, Lupita Nyong’o. Her astounding performance in ’12 Years A Slave’ have been backed by more subtle but equally powerful voice performances in ‘The Jungle Book’ (2016) and ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’.

On The TV Screen

Aside from the powerful performances of African actresses, we have the stories of ordinary people.’ The Pearl of Africa’ has followed the incredibly brave Cleopatra Kambugu through her life story as a transgender person in Uganda. Impossible to forget also is Mercy Johnson, prolific yet still turning in quality with every performance.

Like the overshadowing of African-based TV and film sets by European counterparts, African actresses often find their powerful and world-class performances forgotten in the wake of their equals. Heads are turning though, and audiences flocking to the quality of their performances. The future looks positive.

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