Film

‘Matwetwe’ Captures The Essence of South African Life Without Conforming to the Hollywood Gaze

South African comedian Kagiso Lediga and DJ Black Coffee have produced a frenetic but heartwarming ode to boyhood

Lefa and Papi race through the township and almost stumble over each other as they pursue the guy who's just stolen their bag containing all the weed they've ever cultivated—thousands of Rands worth of weed. The gag is, the thief has a gun (they don't) and keeps looking back to try to shoot at them. The tension is palpable. At the last possible minute, the thief jumps into a getaway car which appears out of nowhere, mind you. The two boys drop to the floor and simply lie on the dusty street in frustrated defeat.


Executive produced by DJ Black Coffee and written and directed by the seasoned comedian Kagiso Lediga, Matwetwe (wizard) is about two best friends Lefa (Sibusiso Khwinana) and Papi (Tebatso Mashishi), who live in Atteridgeville, a township in Pretoria, South Africa's capital city.

Papi is the street smart cool-kid whose father, a former taxi boss, was gunned down and murdered, whilst Lefa is the shy and reserved nerd who is set to go and study Botany at Wits University. Papi's entrepreneurial spirit and Lefa's botanical know-how allows them to cultivate their own weed (which they name Matwetwe) and sell it all over the township as part of their hustle.

The film starts off on a high (excuse the pun) from the get-go. DJ Mujava's classic banger "Mugwanti wa Pitori" opens up the first scene where there are beautifully shot aerial views of the township. It captures the authentic essence of the township with images of shacks packed closely together as well as brick houses in the better parts of the township.

Right from the beginning, the film isn't attempting to be what it's not - some Americanized version of what South African life looks like. It's right there in the trenches so to speak and authentically so. This is what other popular South African films such as Mrs Right Guy and even Happiness is a Four-Letter Word failed to do.

What Matwetwe has achieved, unlike other South African films, is capturing the true essence of South African life as it is without needing to conform to the Hollywood gaze. There are no forced American accents save for two characters (but they're just trying to act cool) and no tired stereotypical tropes of what it means to be South African.

Three narrators describe the events as they unfold. This particular 'theater style' allows for more engagement with the viewers and brings in comedic relief when Lefa and Papi's thrilling escapades have you on the edge of your seat. The fact that the three narrators sometimes interject with other stories, for example, Lefa's neighbour (who is hiding his dead wife's body in their house) or Barotho (who lost his sanity after his girlfriend died in a car accident) speaks to the multifaceted life of the township. There is no end to the peculiar characters who make daily life just that much more interesting.

"Mugwanti" is just the first of several South African musical classics to add vibrancy to the film. You'll be singing along to hits you'd almost forgotten. This includes Khuli Chana's "Mnatebawen," Bugzito's "Maratong," Black Coffee and Nakhane's "We Dance Again" and Stogie T's "Going Gorilla," among others.

The film has a refreshingly fresh-faced cast which is important at a time when South Africans have been debating the opening up of the entertainment industry to new talent. The two young stars of the film show that a production doesn't always need veteran actors and actresses at its helm to make it a success. What's also important is how Tebatso Mashishi, who has albinism, is one of the main actors in the film. In a country where people who have albinism are still stigmatized and even physically harmed because of their condition, seeing Mashishi on the screen is so fitting because representation matters.

At the heart of the film is also the theme of absent fathers, something many South Africans can relate to. Whilst Papi's father is absent because he died, Lefa's father is absent because he has unsurprisingly started another family elsewhere. Lefa is now left in the care of his grandmother who is always visibly worried about whether Lefa's father will eventually pay his university fees or disappoint him yet again.

Perhaps the most obvious and poignant theme of this film is that of friendship. But more so, friendship that has to exist in a sense, in two different realities. While the one young man, Papi, is well-off, he seems comfortable with life in the township, as long as he can make some money for himself. On the other hand, his friend Lefa, is tired of that life, and the opportunity to go and study is one he wants to seize with both hands.

In one of the last scenes of the movie, Papi expresses how he is going to miss Lefa when he goes off to university. It's sad that many a friendship has not survived because of just that. We talk about the ones who get to leave the township with tremendous excitement, but we often forget those who stay behind.







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Photo by: Screenshot from The Daily Show'

"My Time is Up:" Trevor Noah Talks About Leaving 'The Daily Show' After 7 Years

The South African comedian announced that he would be leaving the Comedy Central series after his seven-year tenure.

Trevor Noah announced that he will be leaving The Daily Show after seven years.

In his statement Noah described his experience hosting the show as "absolutely amazing."

“It’s been absolutely amazing. It’s something that I never expected,” Noah said. “I found myself thinking throughout the time of everything we’ve gone through. The Trump presidency, the pandemic, just the journey, more pandemic and I realize that after the seven years, my time is up.”

Following the departure of Jon Stewart from the show in 2015, the South African comedian became the show's host, and has since interviewed the likes of Barack Obama, Burna Boy, Davido and a host of other notable public figures. The 38-year-old has also used his platform to elevate African artistry and elevate the African experience. Noah alluded to the idea that his decision to leave the show was inspired partly by his interest in returning to stand up comedy and exploring his skillset that way. Noah also thanked his viewers for giving him an opportunity when he first came on the American scene as a comedian who very few knew about.

“I spent two years in my apartment, not on the road, and when I got back out there, I realized there’s another part of my life out there that I want to carry on exploring. I miss learning other languages. I miss going to other countries and putting on shows,” said Noah.

Noah also referred to the show as "one of the greatest joys" of his life, and has credited the show for helping him hone his creative muscle.

“I’ve loved hosting this show, it’s been one of my greatest challenges and one of my greatest joys,” Noah said. “I’ve loved trying to find a way to make people laugh, even when the stories are particularly shitty, even on the worst days. We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together.”

Although he did not make any comments about his last day on the show, or exactly when he would exit, he did humorously say that he would not abruptly leave without prior warning.

“Don’t worry, I’m not disappearing,” said Noah. “If I owe you money, I’ll still pay you.”

Arts + Culture
Photo by Felix Dlangamandla/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images

'Reyka' Will Represent Africa at This Year's International Emmy Awards

It's South Africa's time to shine as the TV drama and its lead actress Kim Engelbrecht are chosen to represent the continent.

The list of nominees for this year's International Emmy Award ceremony has been released, and the tip of Africa has been assigned as this year's representation for the continent. South Africa is the only country to be included on this year's roster and received nods in three categories: TV drama Reyka earned Best Drama and Best Performance by an Actress for its star, South African sweetheart Kim Engelbrecht, and My Better World scored a nomination in the Best Kids Factual & Entertainment program.

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Photo Courtesy of Biker Girls Gh

Meet the Ghanaian Biker Community Led by Women

From riding motorcycles as a hobby to pushing charitable causes, Biker Girls Gh are always in motion.

In Ghana, there is a staunch stereotype that comes with riding a motorcycle. The notion persists that people who ride them are vagabonds, criminals, and social misfits. This mindset has slowly festered and is now deep-rooted in the typical Ghanaian society. Aside from the negatives, there is the fear for life when one mounts a motorcycle and, as such, many Ghanaian homes have been against motorbikes.

Enter Jessica Opare Saforo, who is redefining what this means with Biker Girls Gh, a women-led biker collective she founded in 2018. In a fairly conservative society like Ghana, to see women riding around freely attracted quite the attention.

However, be it one of indignance or admiration, Jessica didn’t really care about the conjecture people had about the group. “For me, creating this group wasn’t about what people thought," Saforo tells OkayAfrica. "OK, if you thought women weren’t supposed to ride. That was your headache, not mine.”

How it all began

motorcycle

Most bikes are manufactured with men’s physique in mind. Women might find it difficult to find the right fit for them.

Photo Courtesy of Biker Girls Gh

Biker Girls Gh was created after Saforo's mother passed away in February 2018. Losing someone she was extremely close to devastated her and she found solace on the wheels of a motorcycle.

“I lost my mother and I figured, you know, I had this passion that I wanted to pursue for the longest time. And I felt you only live once. Why don't you just embark on something that you have always wanted to do?," Saforo said. "Because time is not given. And, tomorrow's not guaranteed.”

She reached out to Rosina Fynn, the executive director of Biker Girls Gh and one of the very few women actively biking at the time. Fynn's husband, a member of Biker Girls, offered biking lessons and Jessica learned from there. Over time, Saforo found that being on bike helped alleviate her pain.

“On the motorcycle, you cannot multitask," she said. “So whenever I was on a motorcycle, I didn’t think about her and the pain too much. That helped me cope better. You just learn to live with the pain and hope they are in a better place.”

Biker Girls Gh riding in streets

“Before you officially join the group, we take you out on a fun ride to assess how you ride and also gel with the girls," Saforo said. "This is done like three times."

Photo Courtesy of Biker Girls Gh

She decided then to form a community of women who simply loved riding like herself. Interestingly, she didn’t have to convince women to join. Representation really does matter. Women got the nudge they needed when they saw her — unapologetically being herself — on the motorcycle.

“You would see people on television or maybe on the internet who would ride and you'd think, 'Oh, that's such an interesting sport or an interesting hobby to have.' But you would think it was out of reach," Saforo said. "'Till you realize your next-door neighbor is a female rider and then you‘re like, 'Oh, wait, it's not so far out of reach.' And then you say to yourself, 'OK, this is something I can do, too.’”

Most bikes are manufactured with men’s physique in mind. Women might find it difficult to find the right fit for them. (Even though Saforo suggests the Kawasaki as ideal for women between 5’5 to 5’8.) And motorcycling is a relatively high-risk hobby; safety is non-negotiable. Biker Girls Gh is stern on safety precautions, which sounds intimidating to the average rider or new rider. But it is a policy they are unwilling to compromise on. Should a member ride without their full gear on three times in a row, the group exercises measures like suspension.

The group doesn’t offer bike lessons and new members must have their own motorcycles as a prerequisite. They must also be experienced riders or ideally be above beginner level. A motorcycling license is also a prerequisite.

“Before you officially join the group, we take you out on a fun ride to assess how you ride and also gel with the girls," Saforo said. "This is done like three times."

Charitable Ladies on the Bike

A group of women in bike group

Biker Girls Gh features bankers, content creators, electrical engineers, managing directors, and CEOs.

Photo Courtesy of Biker Girls Gh

A noticeable feature of the group is how most of the women come from different professional backgrounds. There are bankers, content creators, electrical engineers, managing directors, and CEOs. Targeting this peculiar bevy of ladies was deliberate for Saforo. She didn’t want to be like other groups, so standing out was imperative to the group.

“Being able to pull women from various spheres of life helps us and gives us the necessary leverage we need to move further,” she said.

The core objective of the group has always been about riding. But they have also embraced philanthropy. In 2019, they rode all the way from Accra to Prampram where they donated immensely to the Kinder Paradise Orphanage. In 2021, they paid the medical bills of women stuck in the hospital for owing medical fees and donated to prison inmates at Akuse who couldn’t afford healthy meals. They also collaborated with the “Kenkey for the Needy” project in 2022 to provide food for street kids in Accra.

Inspirational sisters spurring each other up

black women with mask

The core objective of Biker Girls Gh has always been about riding. But they have also embraced philanthropy.

Photo Courtesy of Biker Girls Gh

The camaraderie and sisterhood in the group is profound, which encapsulate a solid support system that inspire members to be the best versions of themselves.

“Ninety-five percent of the group are in leadership or mid-level roles in their respective careers,” Saforo said. “We have a WhatsApp group where we discuss socio-economic issues, sometimes issues concerning women just to stimulate the sisterhood. Once a month, we meet to have breakfast or lunch to catch up. We do acknowledge that times are hard in Ghana and everyone is struggling. Sometimes you don’t just want to text anything in a WhatsApp group but if you meet your sister you can tell her about it.”

Beyond that, personal friendships are also forming within the group which just firmly grounds the group the more. Biker Girls Gh are currently 17 women and Jessica iterates the fact that she doesn’t care about the number necessarily — all she strives for is quality in the group.

Idahams Wants to Soundtrack Life's Beauty & Battles

From the Island of Bonny to Lagos and now, the world, Idahams has a lot of stories to tell. We speak to him about his immersive and tender debut album, Truth, Love & Confessions.

The south got something to say. Actually, in the sprawling world of Nigerian pop, it has been speaking for a while now, with the likes of Rema, Omah Lay and Ajebo Hustlers riding on the region’s genre-fluid practices to popular acclaim. Another name in that conversation isIdahams, a producer and musician who recently released his debut album, Truth, Love & Confessions. It was a quiet Saturday when OkayAfrica recently spoke with him, discussing stories far broader than the thirteen songs which make up TLC.

“I wanted it to be a different one,” he says about his vision for the project. “Not like what we’ve heard before, you know, something people can always go back to when they want to be inspired, when they want to be emotional, something that can stand the test of time. I didn’t want the sound to be what we’ve heard in the past couple of years, so I took my time.”

Being a producer allows Idahams creative license, and he’s much involved in the sound of Trust, Love & Confessions, too. He usually sends sound frames of what he needs to his collaborating producers, and they work around that vision. “I’m always intentional when it comes to making a song,” he says, placing his potential listeners somewhere in that radar.

A shimmering emotional presence lies at the core of TLC. With its title preceding the ambition, the records are inspired by both true and fictional experiences, all rendered purposefully by Idahams’ fine knowledge of sound. From the glorious opener “Gratitude” which utilizes a church choir to the descriptions of a toxic relationship laden in “Hate That I Love,” the album’s themes follow a progressive path. The production is minimal and exquisite, carrying the personal convictions of Idahams with light, almost watery ease.

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