It’s named Jongo, and it’s said to be Africa’s first Superhero TV show. The media space has been rife with western interpretations of decidedly non-western stories. Scarlett Johansson’s casting in Ghost In The Shell, a very Japanese story and the disaster that was Nina Simone’s biopic both come readily to mind. Presumably to appeal to what filmmakers perceive as their largest audience, many originally ethnic characters have been re-written to look/act like caucasians. The oft-made argument to defend all this white-washing is that the focus should be on intangible things like creativity and quality of performance, but we all know that’s a load of bullshit.
I mean, it’s barely 6 months since there was a massive uproar about Idris Elba (arguably one of the best actors in the world) prospectively playing James Bond, and like Ta-Nehisi Coates said in his beautifully penned piece on the subject, “(Zoe) Saldana could be the greatest thespian of her time, but no one would consider casting her as Marilyn Monroe”. There’s obviously a long way to go, and go, we will but maybe instead of canvassing for inclusion in Western chronicles, it’s time to focus on creating content to serve an underserved African market? Seyi Taylor, CEO of Big Cabal Media puts it more eloquently…
Now, while we’ve spent time merely talking about our lack of representation in the mainstream superhero/science fiction genre, someone upped and created an entire TV series as an attempt to fix the problem. African lead characters, telling an Afrocentric story, set and aired in Africa, and he’s called it Jongo.
It’s just finished its debut run on (BET Africa) DSTV, so if you’d like to watch it, you can either catch the rerun that started on April 19 on e.tv (it’s shown every Tuesday night at 7:30pm GMT+1), or wait for it to pop up somewhere online. I’ve seen people raise questions about whether the creator – a white South-African named Gareth Crocker – was able to represent (black) African culture properly. According to a review I read on Kigali though, Jongo’s only weak point was some of the acting. There were no one-dimensional black and/or female characters (as is common on many similar stories), and apparently Gareth, the director didn’t attempt to pander to the “White saviour” trope. Tao of Otaku also had an interesting podcast session with him which you can check out here.
While Jongo is by no means the first Superhero character ever created, it’s the biggest I’ve seen so far, and the most likely to become mainstream. I know about more than a few Superhero characters being developed for Nigerian (and possibly African) TV at the moment. I’m the project music supervisor on two of such efforts, so it won’t be long before we see the first Superhero show, designed by and for Nigerians getting airplay. But for now, Jongo is what we’ve got on the table and I hope it gets ported to online VOD platforms like iROKO tv soon, so it gets the opportunity to be viewed by a much larger audience. If nothing else, to set the African Superhero genre in motion.