Arts + Culture

Forget 007: Here Are 7 African Roles Idris Elba Could Play Instead

Since it's likely Idris Elba won't play James Bond in the next edition of 007, here are 7 African characters he can play instead.

London-based Eon Productions and MGM have confirmed that the next installment of the James Bond franchise will be released on November 8, 2019, reports The New York Times. Though details about the release’s “distribution partner, international release dates, and the film’s cast and director,” were not provided, the Times article quoted two anonymous sources who confirmed that British actor, Daniel Craig will continue in the role of James Bond.

If those sources are correct, the announcement will surely disappoint Idris Elba fans who had fancied the thespian as the next face of British intelligence. When these fans—millennials of a certain persuasion—think of Britain today, they see faces like Elba, Dizzy Rascal, Ozwald Boateng, and Yinka Shonibare MBE; it is the sounds of grime, trip-hop, reggae that they hear.

As fine as he [Elba] was, they tweeted that he was worthy to play a role that was the very embodiment of British masculinity. They protested when Anthony Horowitz insinuated in an interview that Elba wasn’t “suave” enough to play Bond. Even South African-born Hollywood A-lister Charlize Theron lent her voice to the Elba-for-Bond movement.

While I understand the disappointment Elba fans must feel, I am not dismayed that he wouldn’t be the face of a dead empire I have little or no affections for. Besides, there are countless characters in the African literary and pop-cultural universe an enterprising and ambitious producer, from say Nollywood, can develop, which could make use of his skills and global following. Take a look at some below.

1. Bambara Keita

Keita is the protagonist in Inongo vi Makomè’s Natives, which is set in Barcelona where the lives of its illegal African immigrants and the city’s natives rarely intersect. Elba could play the hero who in the novel is randomly selected by two successful middle age women to satisfy them sexual cravings. A visionary director that could translate Makomè’s hilariously crafted sex scenes—some of the most memorable I have read lately—could provide Elba an opportunity to showcase both sex appeal and comedic chops.

2. The Unnamed Narrator of “The Palm-Wine Drinkard”

Picture Elba running through the congested backyard of Dead’s Town in search of his recently deceased tapster in a fantastic setting where spirits of the dead and the living co-mingle. While the actor’s not-so-recent role as a warlord of an unnamed West African country was widely praised on this side of the Atlantic as charismatic, I think Elba would alight the screen as the unnamed narrator fighting ghosts and spirits in Amos Tutuola’s masterpiece.

3. Lance Spearman

There has hardly been a character that boasted a following that stretched from South African townships to the coastal cities of English speaking West Africa by way of the Eastern Coast like Drum Magazine’s crime fighting superhero The Spear. If The Spear is to be reborn on screen, I for one cannot imagine anyone better than Elba to channel his coolness. Imagine Elba as Lance combatting Coltan Smugglers, Big Game hunters, mercenaries and criminal gangs.

4. Samora Machel

Who better than Elba to play the military commander and Marxist politician whose role in Mozambique’s independence has earned him a prominent place in the pantheon of Southern African liberation era heroes. Independent Mozambique under Machel not only diminished Portugal’s role as an imperial power of consequence, it played a pivotal role in the wars of liberation that saw Rhodesia transformed into Zimbabwe, and gave the apartheid regime in South Africa on edge.

5. Thomas Sankara

Visualize Elba in fatigues, a red beret, and his eyes squinted against sunrays as he speaks into a microphone to an audience of boubou wearing women. Given his range, Elba seems like the ideal vessel to convey the gravitas of the dashing Burkinabe revolutionary whose brief passage on the African political stage at the dawn of the cold war. Imagine close shots of Elba as Sankara waving to a swooning crowd of youth; on his bicycle riding to work; in his jerseys kicking a football, and then that speech where he tells young Africans to “dare to invent the future.”

6. George Weah

Whether or not Elba can handle the ball like the performance artist of a player who parlayed his talent from his native West Africa to the highest echelons of arguably the most popular sport in the world is irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if the actor can dribble with the deftness, or run like a gazelle—qualities that made Weah the legendary forward that he is today—but what might matter would be how this story is told. Perhaps, Elba could play a Weah’s transition from retired football great to ambitious political figure. The possibilities are endless.

7. Thomas N’Kono aka The Black Spider

With the agility of a gymnast, N’Kono wrote his name in soccer lore at a time when the presence of African players in European leagues hadn’t yet lost its novelty. At his peak during the nineteen eighties, there were encounters in which Tommy [as he is called in his native Cameroon] didn’t just compete against the opposing offensive lines, but entire stadia of ambivalent soccer fans wowed and frightened by his feats. Not only does Elba have The Black Spider’s stature, he evokes the confidence that marked the goalie’s tenure as goalie for Cameroon during its golden years spanning the 80s and 90s.

Kangsen Feka Wakai was born in Cameroon. He is a hip-hop and jazz head who worships in the shrine of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He is an imaginary god child of Nina Simone and Sun Ra. He is currently working on a memoir exploring father-son dynamics, family, identity, and displacement. He lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @KfWakai.

"Zion 9, 2018" (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag)" by Mohau Modisakeng. Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

South African Artist Mohau Modisakeng Makes Solo NYC Debut With 'A Promised Land'

The artist will present the video installation 'ZION' and other works centering on the "global history of displacement of Black communities" at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Brooklyn.

Renowned South African visual artist Mohau Modisakeng presents A Promised Land, his latest solo exhibition, opening at Brooklyn's Jenkins Johnson Gallery this month. This marks the New York debut of Modisakeng's ZION video installation, based on the artists's 2017 performance art series by the same name. It originally debuted at the Performa Biennial.

"In ZION the artist deals with the relationship between body, place and the global history of displacement of Black communities," reads a press release. "There is an idea that all people are meant to belong somewhere, yet in reality there are millions of people who are unsettled, in search of refuge, migrating across borders and landscapes for various reasons."

In addition to the video, the show also features seven large-scale photographs that communicate themes of Black displacement. From 19th century Black settlements in New York City, which as the press release notes, were eradicated to clear space for the development of Central Park, to the scores of Africans who have faced conflict that has led them to life as refugees in foreign lands.

Keep reading...
Installation view of Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2020, photography by Anna-Marie Kellen.

The Met's New Exhibition Celebrates the Rich Artistic History of the Sahel Region

'Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara' is an enxtensive look into the artistic past of the West African region.

West Africa's Sahel region has a long and rich history of artistic expression. In fact, pieces from the area, which spans present-day Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, date all the way back to the first millennium. Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, a new exhibition showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, dives into this history to share an expansive introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with the Sahel's artistic traditions.

"The Western Sahel has always been a part of the history of African art that has been especially rich, and one of the things that I wanted to do with this exhibition, that hasn't done before, is show one of the works of visual art...and present them within the framework of the great states that historians have written about that developed in this region," curator Alisa LaGamma tells Okayafrica. She worked with an extensive team of researchers and curators from across the globe, including Yaëlle Biro, to bring the collection of over 200 pieces to one of New York City's most prestigious art institutions.

Keep reading...
Photo courtesy of Netflix.

'Queen Sono' is the Bad-Ass Women-Led Spy Thriller Like No Other: Here's What its Stars Have to Say About It.

Netflix's first African Original Series smashes tired stereotypes about Africa and womanhood while keeping us all in suspense.

A little over a year ago, Netflix announced that Africa's first Original Series Queen Sono was in the works and the excitement has been building for the launch of the spy thriller series ever since. Social media has been abuzz with fans putting out what their play-by-play expectations of the series are.

After dropping a number of enticing teasers that kept fans on the edges of their seats, and more recently the official full-length trailer for Queen Sono, the wait is finally over. The series premiered on the streaming platform yesterday.

Keep reading...
Photo: Hugo Glendinning & Gavin Rodgers.

The 10 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Featuring Rema, Niniola x Femi Kuti, Tony Allen, 2Baba, Olamide, Burna Boy, Fireboy DML and more

Here are the best tracks that came out of the buzzing Nigerian scene in February.

Follow our NAIJA HITS playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox