Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Blood & Water is Khosi Ngema's Moment - and She’s Enjoying It

We spoke with the South African actress about her hit TV show and being Gabrielle Union's #WCW.

Netflix South Africa seems to be on a mission to dominate international screens. With two successful original shows under their belt so far, (RIP Queen Sono) and credit for giving birth to a plethora of fresh and talented new African faces, the global movie, and television giant seems to have found a comfortable home in the Southern African hub.

One talent that has sparked life into the Netflix television scene is South African actress Khosi Ngema. The 21-year-old newcomer plays Fikile Bhele on Netflix South Africa's original series Blood & Water. The teen drama, written and directed by Nosipho Dumisa, follows the life of high school student Puleng Khumalo (played by lead actress Ama Qamata) as she searches for her long-lost sister. Puleng attends Parkhurst College in the hopes to get close to popular student Fikile Bhele as she believes that she's her abducted sister as they share the same birthday and other too-good-to-be-true similarities along the way.

We spoke to the model and singer about newfound fame, the adoration from the likes of American actress Gabrielle Union and how Blood & Water provides an escape from reality for many young South Africans.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Your breakout role just happens to be on a Netflix show that is also the first-ever African original series to be ranked first on Netflix in 10 countries including the US. How does that feel?

Insane. I still can't wrap my head around it. I'm just going with the flow, I'm just like, "Oh, we're number one. Okay. That's cool. That's nice." Yeah, it's insane.

How are you processing all of it?

Just taking it one step at a time. I'm just glad that people are able to watch the show on a global scale and enjoy it. That's all that matters to me. I just want to keep doing it. I'm adjusting to the whole social aspect of it, like social media and interviews and stuff, but it's been cool.

And the cast, you guys are all really young and relatively new on the scene. Does having that support and common ground help at all?

Definitely. I remember in season one, Ama (Qamata) and I were like, "Okay, we're in this together." Because we're both new and this thing is huge, but we just held each other through it. So that's definitely been the theme throughout even now.

Fans are losing their minds, already eager for what's next. Why do you think people resonate so well with the show?

I think people resonate with Blood & Water because, number one, it's a young adult series. So, the youth and young adults, and even older people can relate to it because you're watching these teenagers navigate life. I also think it's refreshing because, for the first time, I guess in South Africa I'd say, it's just a story about teenagers and just people living. They're going through this crazy thing, human trafficking, and not so much about the struggle. And as much as that's important to highlight, I feel like it's just showing people being people. It's an escape from our usually sad reality here.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Your character, Fikile, has become a fan favorite. The girls are loving Fiks. Why do you think people relate to her so much?

I think it's because she's just this girl who's trying to bold her identity, trying to show everyone that she's a person despite everything they've already concluded about her. I'm not going to lie, at first, she is a bit out of touch with reality, before everything. But I feel like now she's coming to, she sees how she affects the world around her. She sees that there's actually life beyond what she knows, which is great. It shows growth, especially at that age. But yeah, I think she's growing and learning.

How much of Fikile do you see in yourself and vice versa?

At first? Not a lot, because we're like opposites in terms of our social standing. In high school, she's super popular and I wasn't. She's a party girl and popular, but I feel like now in season two, I found a point where we both meet because obviously in order to portray her, I have to dig within myself to find her. So I feel like now we do meet. It's just our experiences are completely different, but just the feeling that she experiences, I feel like I have in my own way. But we're different.

Gabriel Union recently shouted you out on social media. How are you processing all the attention and love from industry veterans?

Someone told me, "You're too calm. Why are you so calm?" But inside, I'm screaming. I think it's nice, the recognition is really nice. It's like well done, you did something, but I just try not to let that phase me. It's a huge deal. I'm still like, "Oh my gosh, what?" But I just try to let it ground me. Just let it push me, find inspiration because these are the people that inspire me.

Is there anything else you're working on right now that you want fans to know about, or people are interested in?

At the moment, nothing too crazy. I am working on music, but I can't really say anything. I'm still having fun and reeling from success from the show. People keep asking what's next but I'm just trying to enjoy this moment. And I don't want to do too many things and peak too soon. I'm here for the long ride.

You can watch season two of Blood & Water on Netflix.

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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How CKay's 'Love Nwantiti' Became the World's Song

Nigerian singer and producer CKay talks to OkayAfrica about the rise of his international chart-topping single "Love Nwantiti," his genre-defying sound and the reasons behind this era of afrobeats dominance.