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5 Times Celebrities Tried to Channel Africa, But Missed the Mark

We take a look at five recent times that celebrities attempted to engage with the continent, but got it wrong.

DIASPORA—As Beyoncé's recent "African-inspired" push party points out—Africa is now.

With the steady rise of afrobeats, growing interest in African art and fashion and Africans from a number of different industries taking the world stage, African culture is being shared, explored and appreciated now more than ever. And like Beyoncé, many celebrities are making their own attempts at engaging with the continent, and that's a great thing. The outcomes of them doing so, however, aren't always so great.

Sometimes the results are meaningful and dynamic, but sometimes they're surface level and stereotypical. Other times they're just downright funny.

Below, we take a look at a couple of times that celebrities attempted to engage with the continent, but missed the mark.

French Montana Heads to Uganda for his "Unforgettable" Music Video

This wasn't going too badly at first, Montana and Swae Lee were joined by the Ghetto Kids for a dance party in the streets of Kampala. Then, in a page from the book of "Insanely Tired African Storylines," Montana gets captured by a group of armed militiamen.

Will Smith's African-Inspired Fashion Choices

The Fresh Prince toured the continent a few months back, touching down in Egypt, Morocco,  Zambia and Tanzania, and the trip looked amazing. Slightly less fresh, however, were some of his style choices. His zebra print pants are screaming the opening song of the Lion King. 

For some reason, we were far less mad at this "Pan-African" ensemble he rocked in Morocco.

Thank you Mr Smith im so happy you had a grt time in my home place with my people and morocco 🇲🇦 #hassanhajjaj #willsmith

A post shared by Hassan Hajjaj (@hassanhajjaj_larache) on

Rick Ross Shoots Alternate Music Video in Nigeria

Rick Ross traveled to Nigeria for the 2012 music video for "Hold Me Back." The video had potential—it begins with an archived clip of a news story on the ending of the Biafran War, but the Lagos-shot footage that follows, simply comes off as poverty porn.

Omarion's South African-shot Music Video

Omarion went full "tribal" in the music video for his song "Distance'—giraffes, elephants and huts included. While his "Zulu Warrior" outfit and theatrical "African" dance moves make for a good laugh—the song, itself, isn't too bad.

Meryl Streep's "We’re All Africans, Really” Comment

Hollywood's lack of diversity is well documented, and when its most celebrated actor, Meryl Streep, was asked to weigh in on the issue at the Berlin International Film Festival last year, her answer was paltry.

"I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures," said the actor when asked whether she understood films from North Africa. “There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all, we’re all from Africa originally," she continued. "We’re all Africans, really.” Talk about missing the whole, entire point.

OkayAfrica contributor Abel Shifferaw, wrote about how the actor managed to got it all wrong in "You Ain't African, Meryl Streep."


Image supplied.

Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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