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.

Cover of Isha Sesay's 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'

'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'—an Excerpt From Isha Sesay's Book About Remembering the Chibok Girls

Read an exclusive excerpt from the Sierra Leonean reporter's new book, which offers firsthand accounts of what happened to the girls while in Boko Haram captivity in an attempt to make the world remember.

Below is an excerpt from the seventh chapter in Sierra-Leonean journalist and author Isha Sesay's new book, "Beneath the Tamarind Tree," the "first definitive account" of what took place on the ground following the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.

Continue on to read more, and revisit our interview with the reporter about why it's important for the world to remember the girls' stories, here.


"We should burn these girls!"

"No, let's take them with us!"

"Why not leave them here?"

The men were still arguing, dozens of them trading verbal blows while Saa and the other horrified girls looked on. None of the men seemed particularly troubled by the fact that the lives of almost three hundred schoolgirls hung in the balance. Amid all the yelling, the girls had been divided into groups. Each batch would burn in a different room in the school buildings that were aflame just a few feet away. Tensions were escalating when a slim man with outsize eyes suddenly appeared. Saa had never seen him before. Like many of the insurgents, he too looked young and was just as scruffy. But when he spoke, tempers seemed to cool for a moment.

"Ah! What are you trying to do?"

"We wanted to burn them!"

"Why not take them with us, since we have an empty vehicle?"

His suggestion triggered a fresh round of quarreling. The same positions were expressed, and the newcomer continued to calmly repeat his idea of taking the girls with them, till he finally got his way. The girls later discovered his name was Mallam Abba. He was a commander.

"Follow us!" the men shouted.

None of it made any sense to Saa. Why? To where? As the insurgents shuffled her out of the compound, she felt as if her whole life were on fire. All Saa could see was the ominous orange glow of flames consuming every one of her school buildings. With every step, the fears within her grew. She struggled to make sense of the competing thoughts throbbing in her head. This isn't supposed to be happening. The insurgents had asked about the boys and the brick-making machine; they'd systematically emptied the school store, carrying bag after bag of foodstuffs and loading all of it into the huge waiting truck. With everything now packed away, Saa had thought the insurgents would simply let the girls go home. After all, that's what had happened during their previous attacks on schools—they'd always let the schoolgirls go, after handing out a warning to abandon their education and strict instructions to get married. Saa had simply expected the same thing to happen once more, not this.

She scanned the crowd of faces surrounding her; the creased brows and startled expressions of the others made it clear that everyone was equally confused. Whatever the turmoil they were feeling, they kept it to themselves. No one said a word. Saa fell into a sort of orderly scrum with the men corralling and motioning her forward with their guns, each weapon held high and pointed straight at the girls.

Saa and Blessing moved in unison, along with the hundreds of others, snaking along in the dark through the open compound gate, past the small guard post usually occupied by Mr. Jida, which now sat empty. Yelling came from nearby Chibok town. Saa could smell burning, then heard the sound of gunshots and people running. It was bedlam.

Just beyond the compound walls sat a crowd of bushes. As she and the men moved out into the open, Saa felt their thorns spring forward, eager to pull at her clothing and scratch and pierce her body. Careful not to yell out in pain, she tried to keep her clothes beyond the reach of the grasping thicket with no time to pause and examine what might be broken skin.

Saa retreated into herself and turned to the faith that had anchored her entire life. Lord, am I going to die tonight, or will I survive? Desperate to live, unspoken prayers filled her mind and she pleaded, repeatedly, God save me.

She was still praying as they walked down the dirt path away from the flaming school. The shabby-looking men with their wild eyes gave no explanation or directions. They simply motioned with their heads and the sweep of their rifles, making it clear to keep moving. As the reality began to sink in, Saa felt her chest tightening. Her heart was going to beat its way out of her body. But she couldn't allow herself to cry or make any sound. Any kind of display would make her a target, and who knew what these men might do?

The insurgents walked alongside, behind, and in front of her; they were everywhere. Every time Saa looked around, their menacing forms filled her view. Initially, all the girls were steered away from the main road and onto a rambling path overgrown with bushes; the detour was likely made in an attempt to avoid detection.

Parents lining up for reunion with daughters (c) Adam Dobby


This excerpt was published with permission from the author. 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree' is available now.

Wizkid in "Ghetto Love"

The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Wizkid, Stonebwoy x Teni, Thabsie, Sampa the Great and a classic Funána compilation.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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South Africa has Ruled that Spanking Children is Now Unconstitutional

The judgement was unanimous.

Back in 2017, the South African High Court ruled that it was illegal for parents or guardians to spank their children i.e. use corporal punishment in the home setting. The ruling arose after a father allegedly beat his 13-year-old son "in a manner that exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement". Today, the Constitutional Court has upheld the High Court's 2017 ruling and declared that the spanking of children is a violation of the constitution.

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Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Nigerian Women Have Taken to the Streets to March Against the Serial Killing of Women

"The women in Port Harcourt no longer feel safe," the protesters say.

Hundreds of Nigerian women have taken to the streets in protest of the the spate of murders that have taken the lives of eight women in various Port Harcourt hotels thus far. Dressed in in black clothing and holding placards denouncing the femicide in a scene quite similar to the protests led by South African women last week, Nigerian women are demanding that the police as well as the government do more to protect the women living in Part Harcourt especially. The BBC reports that the police have arrested two individuals who are thought to be suspects in the killings.

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