Africa Magic at 10: Tokenism for Uganda

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Ugandan audio-visual content producers may not have much to look forward to even as Africa Magic toasts to 10 years. They may have to settle for the tokenism that is a lone nomination at the 2014 AMVCAs. Veteran film industry practitioner Michael Wawuyo earned himself a Best Make-up nod for the film The Felistas Fable. Being a technical nomination, his winning luck will be determined by a specialist panel unlike Mathew Nabwiso’s aggressive social media canvassing that earned him a Best Supporting Actor trophy at last year’s inaugural event.  

The other tokenism is by way of the dignified “extras” supporting cast roles in Kona, the ambitious 250-episode Africa Magic drama series that mostly features a Kenyan cast and crew. Only two Ugandans Cleopatra Koheirwe and Joel Prynce Okuyo have roles in what should be a pan-East African audio-visual effort. Koheirwe landed the role owing to being cast earlier in the TV series, Changes. Okuyo on the other hand may have to pray harder to his God. The grapevine is rife with word that the stain caused by the human trafficking mud thrown at him last year may see him dropped from the series altogether. Sad if that happens to one of Uganda’s most bankable rising screen stars.  

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Ugandan KONA stars Cleopatra Koheirwe and Joel Prynce Okuyo

Meanwhile, an effort to produce 56 {East African] movies in a year though laudable may still see Ugandans short-changed. Those whose scripts were selected have to trade in their movie rights for Kshs 100,000 (about UGX3m). Impressive for those starting out but not good enough for those for whom the deal feels like an encore of Biblical siblings Esau and Jacob’s story. In the meantime, Lagos and Nairobi continue to gobble up the bulk of AfricaMagic programming probably because both are the most prolific cinema metropolises on the continent outside South Africa. A two-day Kampala session prior to the launch of KONA last year, headlined by M-Net Africa honcho Biola Alabi promised to bring Ugandan content providers at par with their Nigerian and Kenyan counterparts by way of skills development and master classes. Lagos and Nairobi are considered “key markets” and their practitioners have enjoyed training on the latest equipment for their crews while content producers always have a heads-up on acquisition processes and fresh talent there is easily identified and nurtured.

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M-Net Africa honcho Biola Alabi

There is no missing that Africa Magic blazed a trail when it launched in 2003 touted as a TV channel made in Africa by Africans for Africans. Ten years on, it has spawned eight unique channels each with a distinct identity; AfricaMagic, AfricaMagic Entertainment, AfricaMagic Movies, AfricaMagic Movies 1 and AfricaMagic World alongside the dedicated language channels AfricaMagic Hausa, AfricaMagic Swahili and AfricaMagic Yoruba. Biola can’t harp on about its impact enough! “AfricaMagic is African in every way. From its programming to its people to its pioneering spirit, the undisputed power of this brand is its unapologetic belief that this continent and its audiences deserve home-grown entertainment that speaks directly to their own lives, their own experiences; their own aspirations,” she says. 

Maybe Ugandans now have better to look forward to in the next 10 years. What with Biola’s guarantee that they’ve discovered new ways of scheduling, promoting and packaging which our sponsors have embraced and encouraged. “We’ve developed a model of African content delivery which our suppliers have bought in to and engaged with” she adds. Perhaps 10 years into the future, the Ugandan audio-visual industry will have become prolific enough not to just settle for more tokenism by way of shadowing a leading Nollywood actor and sending out 10th anniversary “birthday regards” whose only pay off is a signed release form. In the interim, Ugandans may want to assert themselves by insisting the chosen Ugandan scripts (out of East Africa’s 56) be shot by a Ugandan crew. Now that will be a giant leap to our audio-visual industry’s self-actualisation.    

Text: MOSES SERUGO (serugo@gmail.com, kampala1ne@gmail.com)

Pix: INTERNET 

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