“Once upon a time…”
One phrase, one story, many cultures. No matter where we come from, we all have stories to tell. And no matter what stories we tell, the same elements run through like a cord binding all of humanity. There is love and hate, revenge and hope, princes and princesses, murder and mystery. And in the end, they live happily ever after, or at least, we’d like to think so. Because life is as messy as it gets and why not engage in a bit of escapism…or hope, however you would like to call it.
Depending on the brand of story telling you are in the mood for, you can opt for the nicely packaged Westernized version or the wild, just trying to be real Afrocentric style. They are one and the same.
Africa Magic is just what it is, delivering authentic African stories in epic style. Sorcery, magic, retribution, dwarfs and evil forests. Where people don’t just die, but are killed, and not with guns (that is just too easy and not very African…although with the recent uncivil wars, who knows what is African anymore?), but remotely, through enchantments and concoctions. So there is no use for FBI agents or forensics teams. Just all-night prayers and lots of olive oil. But Nollywood is cleaning up its act and our televisions have welcomed movies that are crisp, refined and every bit as entertaining.
But like I said, Black or White (you won’t be offended if I make things easier by using those two terms, will you?), we are one and the same, lest you think Africa is the cradle of “black” magic and everything evil. I could rewrite Disney’s Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid and pass them off as authentic African stories. The only difference, you see, is that love and hate are dressed up in princess gowns, worn by wide-eyed couldn’t-hurt-a-fly pretty faces. And there are glittering magic wands instead of black pots to grant every wish. But there are also fairy godmothers, evil witches and yes, enchanted forests! Dwarfs become little cute, although grumpy, dears and elves are enlisted as Santa’s helpers. Maame water becomes a loveable, pretty helpless redhead we all root for.
All the Disney brand did was to polish off the ugly from the bad. So Harry Potter and every “weird” Enid Blyton book become childhood delights, appropriate for all ages. No PG 13, unlike many Africa Magic movies that are absurdly tagged PG 16.
The juju in African movies is so scary and in-your-face with ear-splitting sound effects that the Euro-Americans do not know what to make of them. So they tag it PG 16. Anything the West does not understand, it tries to censor.
And we, on the other hand, do not know (or pretend to not know) what to make of the kissing and sex scenes in Hollywood’s PG 13. Even cartoon characters have a go at it on TV. Other cultures prefer the covert smiles and glances that say without a doubt what a million kisses would say, serenading a lovely damsel and dancing by streams (Go Bollywood!). But these days, it is becoming difficult to tell the difference since the global culture exchange is almost complete thanks to technology. So yes, sometimes the cultures clash, but many times, they also blend and still sometimes, they borrow.
But let’s keep it real. Seriously. Personally, I am tired of the Ramsey Noahs and Majids pointing guns in African movies that they never shoot. And then in Hollywood, they shoot but the people don’t die. By the way, how does a gal living in Ghana get a legit gun? Hook me up, Yvonne Nelson.
But call it whatever you will, it is the human story. It’s just the different ways we tell it.
by Grace Ecklu