Arts + Culture

African Hardcore: Behind the Continent's Porn Explosion

From Mapona to Afrocandy, African porn is just taking off. We look at who's making it and, more importantly, who is watching it.

When I was barely a teenager, I found a stash of old porno magazines in my house. I ripped out some of the pages and used them for months to stimulate my sexual curiosity. When my mother eventually found them, she gave me a proper hiding. There was never an open door for us to discuss my sexual urges—something which, when I later spoke with friends, I found out was pretty much the norm. For many young men of my generation, our sex lives began with a dirty American magazine mistakenly passed down from an elder.


For years, my interaction with pornography was coloured with shame. So much so that I began to wonder if there was an African articulation of the primal sexual desires I encountered in American pornography. An articulation that was not so shameful and saturated with dishonour. As I ventured into film criticism I also became acutely aware of the visual language of porn and how it shapes sexual interaction.

There is little writing about African pornography by African academics either from a gender studies or film studies perspective. But while the last seven to nine years have seen a decline in the global output of professionalised porn films, on the African continent the opposite is true.

Porn films from the continent are not immune to the identity questions that plague the wider film community of the region. The very notion of African porn is disruptive because it is not merely geographic. The hyphenated identities of those who categorise themselves as African transcends definitions or geographic binaries and often spills out to the diaspora and beyond.

In the simplest terms one can define African porn as sexual material that is concerned with the sexual pleasure of Africans and is made primarily with those living on the continent and the diaspora in mind.

The reality that most consumers on the continent consume their porn via blue-toothed cellphone videos, bootlegged DVDs and streaming “tube” sites like YouPorn, RedTude, XVideos and PornHub has meant that production values have been severely compromised even as production output rises. But despite this the world is hungry for African pornography. One example is the South African hit Mapona, which has been viewed over seven-million times on XVideos alone and has sold thousands of copies on DVD.

With the growing consumption of pornography also comes an emphasis on locality.

They are tapping into a tradition of storytelling that is part and parcel of the DNA of the genre. Although the films are unapologetically intended for sexual pleasure this does not mean they compromise on storytelling. Mostly influenced by the American camp and highly stylised flicks of the mid to late nineties, films coming out of what is now known as Nude Nollywood as well parts of East and Southern Africa, are narrative driven.

In an impatient world where increasingly the penetration is the only means to an end, African porn films are making an argument for the entertainment value that can be created around the spectacle of sex as opposed to the act itself.

Car chases and tales of witchcraft live side by side with scenes of sex and seduction. Films like AfroCandy's four-part Destructive Instinct series are a prime example of this visual style as well as its popularity.

On the African continent, as is the case with much of the world, sex and money are interlinked. Wealth and access as a direct pipeline to sexual pleasure is also a recurring trope in the visual aesthetic of African porn. The films seem to suggest that uninhibited sexual pleasure is a luxury only available to the rich. Most of the professionally sanctioned pornography that is shot on the continent takes place in settings of pristine beauty. Even with low production values, poor quality sound and a lo-fi look, simulated wealth is the engine that drives African porn forward and gives it urgency.

Usually the rich man is allowed to have his selection of multiple girls whichever way and wherever he would like. One of the most telling moments in Mapona comes at the tail end of a threesome where a pot-bellied man has been having his way with the two younger housekeepers, post-climax and out of breath he says, "It's nice to have maids."

Where pornography is often pure escapism, African porn can also be anthropological. Another example of this is the way in which African porn films address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A condom is used in most films coming from the continent and unlike in American productions where the act of putting it on is often cut away, we see it happen in real time in these films, adding emphasis to the fact that this is an act of safe sex.

Fetish porn and the exploration of sub-genres is almost non-existent in the region perhaps because of the economic realities and the desire of filmmakers to hit as wide an audience as possible. But the lack of fetish porn also speaks to a sexual conservatism that still exists on a wide scale.

This is a natural byproduct of the men and women involved in these films coming of age in the 90s and early 2000s and their sex lives coming to be in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. An era where gratuitous sexual pleasure and certain death were seen as connected dots.

The films are also more and more being forced to respond to the habits of increasingly savvy consumers. According to a report by Pornhub, Africa has 65 percent more searches of the term BBW—”Big Beautiful Women”—than any other part of the world. The bulk of this traffic can be traced back to West Africa.

Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania also have an above average interest in porn with pregnant women compared to the rest of the world. Another report revealed that Rwandans, for instance, frequently used "Uganda," "Congo" and "Nigerian" in their porn searches, a clear indication of the interest that Africans have in the way other Africans engage sexually.

Porn consumption in parts of the continent is also not just a male affair. According to the same Pornhub study, South Africa has one of the highest porn consumption ratios by women in the world. 35 percent of the porn streaming traffic from the country is driven by women. The world average is 24 percent.

The porn industry along with its consumers are subverting western expectations about how black bodies behave in sexual states as well as shifting our understating of black love and transactions of intimacy. African porn is making sex ordinary and celebrating the black body in its diversity.

It’s not unusual to see men with stretch marks, broken teeth, scars and big bellies being sexual with women with husky voices, flabby arms and curvy butts. The way that African porn is writing black sexuality into a previously oppressively white space is not just radical, it’s afro-futuristic without being a gimmick.

Having seen what is possible with the increased presence of people of colour in digital spaces like Reddit and Twitter and witnessing the decolonisation of memes over the last two years, it’s impossible to not get excited by African pornography finding its swagger and having a wider reach, not only for economic reasons but because a billion people finding their sexual voice could be the greatest sexual revolution ever.

 

Bio: Sihle Mthembu is an award-winning South African journalist who wants to write books, to make films and to die without shame. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

News Brief
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Listen to Burna Boy Feature On Popcaan's New Song 'Aboboyaa'


Renowned dancehall artist Popcaan has released his album Great Is He, via OVO Sound, and it features none other than Burna Boy.


Jamaica's Popcaanhas shared his anticipated album Great Is He, and the body of work features Nigerian superstar Burna Boy on the track "Aboboyaa."

The album showcases the Jamaican musical giant's signature dancehall sound, while also exploring the depth of genre's versatility. In addition to featuring Burna Boy, Great Is He includes features from OVO Sound's boss Drake, Jamaica's Chronic Law, and Toni-Ann Singh, among others.

On "Aboboyaa," the two musical powerhouses merge their signature rhythmic melodies and intonations in a way that is both compelling to listen to on the first listen, and in turn inspires a second and third listen.

Ever since he released his debut album in 2014, Popcaan has become an international dancehall sensation, and his repertoire includes a list of impressive features.

His album Forever, which was released in 2018, debuted at number two on Billboard’s Top Reggae Albums. Commercially, Popcaan has made a mark on the music scene too. His last project FIXTAPE — which included “Twist & Turn,” the mesmerizing dancehall hit featuring Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR — has garnered over 191 million streams and continues to receive accolades from outlets like Pitchfork, who described the body of work as “a testament to his place at the forefront of the genre.”

"Aboboyaa" is not Popcaan's first international collaboration. In the past, the Jamaican icon has worked with several international music acts including Davido, Jamie xx, Young Thug, Gorillaz, Kano, Jorja Smith and a host of others. He also founded Jamaica’s annual Unruly Festwhich brings stars across the globe to experience Jamaican culture.

Listen to "Aboboyaa" featuring Burna Boy below.

Listen to Popcaan and Burna Boy's "Aboboyaa"

Music
Photo: Nabil Elderkin.

The Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Popcaan x Burna Boy, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Mr Eazi, Baaba Maal, Pheelz and more.

Every Friday, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column, Songs You Need to Hear. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music. If you missed them, check out our music lists for the Best of 2022 here.

Keep reading...Show less
Photo: The Sundance Institute

In his Imaginative Debut Feature, Walé Oyéjidé Brings Together Elements of His Life’s Work

The Nigerian American director has long used the tools of his multi-hyphenate trade to expand the ways Africans are seen. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, 'Bravo, Burkina!' gives him a larger canvas on which to paint.

Whether it’s employing asylum seekers to model his designs or adding his flair to a piece of pivotal clothing that the late Chadwick Boseman wore in Black Panther, Walé Oyéjidé has always been about using whatever elements he can to push the ways Africans have traditionally been portrayed. What he hinted at in his short film After Migration: Calabria (available on the Criterion Channel), which tells the story of two refugees settling in Italy, he now gets to explore further in the feature debut, Bravo, Burkina!

Keep reading...Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

Baaba Maal Releases New Single 'Agreement'

Senegal's Baaba Maal shares a new song ahead of his upcoming album, Being.

Rising Star Khaid Shares New Single ‘Jolie’

Nigerian music newcomer Khaid comes through with a new love song.

A TV Show About Ethiopia's Queen Sheba is in the Works

During a presentation on at the Sundance Film Festival, Onyx Collective announced that a Queen Of Sheba drama is in the works.

12 Nigerian Artists to Watch in 2023

We highlight Nigeria’s best emerging talents set to make their mark this year.

popular.

Tems Bags Oscar Nomination for 'Wakanda Forever' Song

Nigeria's renowned Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems, scored a nomination at the 2023 Oscars for co-writing ‘Lift Me Up’, one of the songs on 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.'