Courtesy of the Cheeky Natives.

Meet the Dynamic Lawyer-Doctor Duo Behind the Riveting Cheeky Natives Podcast

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane and Alma-Nalisha Cele speak about their Afrocentric podcast and the value of creative work in South Africa.

If a Black author has just released a new book, best believe the Cheeky Natives will be featuring them on their podcast. More than just your run-of-the-mill book review, what fans love about the podcast is how unapologetic and steadfast it is in terms of its personal politics and the canon of critical engagements it wants to create around Black literature. The duo is not afraid to vacillate between treading in the uncomfortable and sometimes painful spaces of the Black narrative and having sheer unadulterated fun. The engagement that is offered on the podcast is frankly not being offered elsewhere and this is precisely why it continues to grow with fans engaging meaningfully with the podcast on social media.

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane and Alma-Nalisha Cele, legal scholar and medical doctor respectively, have featured authors including Nozizwe Jele, Panashe Chigumadzi, Mohale Mashigo, Siya Khumalo and Darnell Moore (among many others). What stands out about this podcast is how authors can speak about their recent works in a refreshing way that allows their readers to experience them in a way they never could have imagined.

Letlhogonolo and Alma are not interested in tired tropes of Black people not because according to them, and rightly so: "We read because we have always read. We read because some of our oldest universities are found on this continent. It's not a new thing for Africans to read."

We sat down to talk to the duo about why they do what they do and where they see their podcast going in the future.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the Cheeky Natives for those who perhaps may not know?

Alma: The Cheeky Natives is a literary platform. It started off as a literary podcast, but in many spaces, it's become a literary platform for the critical appraisal of Black literature. It's important that we emphasize Black literature because what we want to do is create a canon of critical engagements of Black worth that exist outside of the gaze that reduces Black people's worth.

Many kids growing up know of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, but not many Black authors. Was that something that also fed into establishing the podcast?

Letlhogonolo: I think Alma and I both have read throughout our lives. Because we've been such bibliophiles, we obviously read Black authors much earlier than when we started the podcast. But what essentially happened was that we used to go to book fairs or book launches and be the only two people effectively in conversation with the author. I think from there on, we realized that nobody was critically appraising or discussing literature like we were doing.

Letlhogonolo, what has been maybe your top two favorite podcasts so far?

One of my favorite podcasts was with Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. Kimberlé Crenshaw is my intellectual hero and so getting to be in conversation with her was a pivotal moment in my own life as a legal scholar. It's since been a podcast that's been prescribed in universities, graduate studies and used in theses.

My other favorite podcast was a podcast with Darnell L. Moore who wrote No Ashes in the Fire. It's one of my favorite podcasts because it was two Black queer men talking about queerness, one in America and one in South Africa. I enjoyed the intimacy with which we were able to converse across continents.

And your two favourite podcasts Alma?

I think one of my favorites has been Dudu Busani-Dube. I remember that podcast so clearly, because there was such a variety of women there and I'm like, "Here's this Black woman telling a story that this variety of Black women can all relate to."

My other favorite podcast was also one of our most fun podcasts to do was Pumza Shabangu. It was so fun! She wrote Unspoken Truths. It's erotica about Black South African women and so it's not unrealistic.

There's a sentiment that Black people don't read or they don't support each other's works, and yet, when there is a book launch or the Abantu Book Festival, there are so many Black people. Why do you think this sentiment is still prevalent?

Alma: Tony Morrison speaks about race as being so pervasive and a distraction. White people will say that you don't have a language and so you spend 30 years archiving and dissecting it to prove that you do have a language. Black people have been writing our stories forever. We read because we have always read. We read because some of our oldest universities are found on this continent. It's not a new thing for Africans to read.

There are people who share PDF versions of books and claim it's okay so long as it's not for 'commercial purposes'. I believe that's BS. What do you say to that?

Alma: It's literal theft. I have such strong feelings about this. And we say this on every podcast, "Please buy the book. Don't be asking the author for a PDF version." You hear Black authors talk about the kind of budgets that they get for their marketing and how a large part of that is based on how many of their books sell. And so curiously, you could be widely read, but not widely bought because you're being widely distributed. This obviously has an impact on your next book or your ability to negotiate your next book deal. It all speaks to this culture of not appreciating the arts as critical work and therefore one can just say, "But this is for home purposes."

Letlhogonolo: Some of the people who use the poverty and inequality argument are the same people who are well able to go buy a bottle of Hennessy that costs R400 and they're fine with that. Yet the same people are like, "Yeah, but books are expensive." Okay, but alcohol is expensive yet you're willing to share your hard-earned money on alcohol but you don't want to support Black authors.

The state of public libraries in this country is honestly appalling. How do we go about changing that?

Alma: It's very frustrating. Public libraries are very important because in many ways they can act as a bridge. Interacting with literature forces you to think in ways that are outside of your comfort zone and outside of the ways that you are used to thinking. We are depriving poor children of being able to do that.

Letlhogonolo: It feels like a grave injustice but it's not, however, outside of this country's attitudes towards books. It ends up feeling like reading and learning are luxuries. And because we are constantly in survival mode, you just need to get through. From that kind of space, it makes it very difficult to then have these kinds of conversations, because how do you make the argument of a book versus a working toilet? We can't even appreciate art for what it is without wanting or having to reduce it to a question of survival.

There are people I've spoken to who don't read books or even articles. They've said they get everything they need from Twitter. What do you say to that growing culture?

Alma: It's a little bit disturbing. We live in an age wherein people are afraid to say, "I don't know and therefore, I cannot comment on this." We need to get to a point where we have a maturity, as a country that loves to debate, to say, "Look, I'm not well-informed. I'm not well-versed on the subject. Can I do some research and get back to you?" It's really concerning to hear someone speak from the depths of ignorance and more so with so much confidence. And then you ask what critical work they've done before making certain comments and they say, "No, these are my feelings."

At the same time, they're not one to be called out on that same social media. Accountability is a massive thing for me because even some of our favorite theorists sometimes get it wrong.

Our faves can be very problematic. On that note, how did you feel when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was invited to our beloved Abantu Book Festival?

Alma: I want to start by saying it's challenging. I think that for a lot of people, she is very important because of what she's done for African Literature in the West. For a lot of people, it was like meeting their idol. Honestly, if you were against her in that moment, it wasn't safe for you. It was a gathering of people who were excited.

Letlhogonolo: Alma and I had very lengthy conversations about it because we were deciding whether we wanted to have her on our podcast or not, and I was talking to Alma about our brand as the Cheeky Natives, it's great to have such a prolific writer come on, but for our personal politics, it's not. So, we need to hold onto our personal politics and ensure that Cheeky Natives is also political in the work that it does.

What are some of the things you guys are really looking forward to doing on your podcast?

Alma: Leaving our jobs and earning money from the podcast! So if anyone is reading, listening, whatever to this, and wants to give us money, we are ready and waiting.

Letlhogonolo: Joking aside, I think it's just becoming bigger and better. The books that are coming out. So, we're also excited to speak to people that we haven't spoken to before, speak to writers that we haven't spoken to before. We'd love build a Cheeky Natives book store and soundproof booth so when we're recording in the booth, the audience is over there, and have a live recording.

Alma: It's all to create excitement about literature again. Books are fun things.

Photo Credit: From Taamaden

10 Upcoming African Films to Look Forward to in 2022

From Nigerian thrillers to South African documentaries, here are 10 African films we are looking forward to in 2022.

The glitzy and glamorous Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) recently returned for its 43rd edition. The eight day festival, which took place in Durban (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), featured an embarrassment of riches on the program, from around the world. The festival is a good indicator of what we can expect from African cinema for the rest of 2022.

The 10 films on this list were all screened at the festival. These films managed to stand out for reasons that have been explained below. (One of those films, Robin Odongo's Bangarang from Kenya, won the Best African Feature Film award at DIFF.)

Do not miss these movies when they come to a theater or streaming platform near you.

1960 (South Africa)

This pleasant, King Shaft directed period musical centers a heroine who may have been inspired by the life of the late South African icon Miriam Makeba. 1960 opened the Durban festival this year and set the tone for what would come after. Lindi (played by both Zandile Madliwa and Ivy Nkutha) is a singer who in her twilight days digs back into her past to shed light on the murder of an apartheid-era police officer when his remains turn up in Sharpeville some six decades after the infamous massacre of 1960.

African Moot (South Africa​)

There are plenty reasons to be hopeful for the future of the continent. According to Shameela Seedat’s African Moot, the educated youth are leading the way. This fly-on-the-wall documentary follows a group of bright law students who are participating in the annual African Human Rights Moot Court Competition. Seedat, a human rights law specialist turned filmmaker, heads to the University of Botswana with her subjects. Her film details the interesting ways the students approach the fictional case of a people crossing fictional African borders to escape oppression.

​Bangarang (Kenya)

Inspired by true events, Robin Odongo’s chaotic feature expounds on an earlier short film. Bangarang’s protagonist, Otile (David Weda) is a graduate of engineering who has failed to secure decent employment a decade after university. He makes a meagre living as a bike rider instead. When election violence erupts after the disputed Kenyan presidential elections of 2007, an embittered Otile leads rioters on the streets of Kisumu. Before long, he is on the run from the law, accused of murder.

Collision Course (Nigeria)

A frustrated young man collides with the brutal power of the police force. Can a tormented official stop the descent into carnage? The third feature length title from Nigerian director Bolanle Austen-Peters (The Bling Lagosians, The Man of God) is a propulsive thriller set over the course of 24-hours. Starring Daniel Etim Effiong and Kelechi Udegbe, Collision Course digs into the underbelly of urban crime, law enforcement gone rogue, and the desperate victims that suffer the consequences.

The Crossing (La Traversee) (Burkina Faso)

After years in Italy, Djibi returns to his native Burkina Faso and begins to mentor a group of young people whose sole purpose is to leave for Europe. Djibi prepares them for this crossing through a tasking physical and intellectual program that helps bring them personal achievement and may end up neutering their resolve to migrate. Can he make this difference? Irène Tassembédo’s social drama embraces the complicated nature of the immigration experience.

Lesotho, the Weeping Motherland (South Africa)

Told interchangeably between South Africa and Lesotho, this Lwazi Duma-directed documentary engages with the effects of climate change on the agricultural sector, a key income earner in the region. Duma follows Khethisa Mabata as he attempts to revive his father’s farm. The film uses Mabata’s personal story as an entry point into the larger national crisis that has taken Lesotho from a thriving food basket to one suffering extreme drought.

Skeletons (South Africa)

Conceived as an experiment in theatre-making during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this magical realist expression was re-written for film and now sits somewhere as a hybrid between theatre and film. Set in the heart of the Maluti mountains, Skeletons grapples with the issue of land and ownership as told through the lives of four characters. In an environment of scarcity, these four people wrestle to break free from the vicious cycle of oppression. Skeletons confronts notions of home, belonging, and identity.

Streams (Tunisia)

Amel, a married Tunis factory worker is imprisoned on charges of adultery and prostitution following an assault. Upon release, she attempts to put back the pieces of her life and reconnect with her teenage son whose life was derailed by the scandal. Director Mehdi Hmili comments on the decay, contradictions, and hypocrisies of contemporary Tunisian society with this engaging drama about the breakdown of a working-class family and the state’s unwillingness to protect the vulnerable.

Taamaden (Cameroon)

In Taamaden, Mali-born filmmaker Seydou Cissé paints a uniquely intimate portrait of immigration and zeroes in on spirituality. Taamaden, which is the Bambara word for traveler or adventurer, presents two different points of view. The first is that of Bakary, a young Malian preparing for yet another attempt at crossing over to Europe. The other is a motley crew of West African immigrants struggling to survive in Spain. They are united by their ties to their spiritual clairvoyant.

You’re My Favorite Place (South Africa)

Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (Of Good Report, Knuckle City) is one of the most exciting and original cinematic voices on the continent. His latest, which closed the Durban film festival, is a change of pace attempt that also carries some of Qubeka’s slick imprint. On the last day of high school, the young heroine of You’re My Favorite Place and her three friends embark on an unforgettable road trip. They steal a car and head to the remote Hole in the Wall, a landmark that according to Xhosa legend, enables communication with the dead.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

An Inside Look Into the Underground Queer Party Scene in Nigeria

As a result of the laws and law enforcement bodies in the country, queer nightlife in Nigeria is shrouded in secrecy and has been forced to go underground.

A few minutes before midnight on a June evening, there was a line of people attempting to gain access to an unmarked apartment block in Lekki Phase 1 — a suburban neighborhood in Lagos State. To the uninitiated, it was a regular house party in the heart of Lagos Island, which is populated with young people in their 20s. For the attendees who had a flier on their phones and a passcode on their lips, this was an event they had looked forward to for weeks. When they arrived at the doors, they were all asked for a passcode which transported them into a vibrant pulsing party which had drag queens walking across the room and men in shorts that barely went past their crutches gyrating on other men while afrobeats blared. Welcome to queer nightlife in Nigeria where, on weekends, apartments turn into gay clubs, barred with passcode-guarding doors to protect against homophobes.

Party people hugging each other

Secret house parties, discrete raves, and clubs are now becoming increasingly popular amongst young queer Nigerians.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

Across the country, especially in the big cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, lounges, clubs, and bars dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community have started sprouting despite legislation that makes it illegal for them to exist. In 2014, the Nigerian government passed the highly controversial and homophobic Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Despite the name, the law would go on to criminalize many other aspects of queer existence and not just marriage between people of the same sex. The far-reaching law criminalized queer social spaces, groups that advocate for queer rights, and even individuals advocating and supporting queer rights. The law also went on to prescribe a prison term that could go up to 14 years for those who were found guilty of these crimes in southern Nigeria. However, in Northern and mostly Muslim Nigeria, where Shariah law takes pre-eminence, these crimes could lead to death by stoning. While there isn’t an extensive record of people being found guilty for these crimes in Nigeria, these laws emboldened many homophobic mobs who took the laws into their hands and would beat individuals who they identified as queer and destroy spaces and parties that they suspected were hosted by or for queer people. One of the most infamous instances was a 2018 case where 57 men were arrested at a party in Lagos under the suspicion of being initiated into a gay club. While this particular case garnered significant press coverage as the men were made to go to trial, it is far from being the only case of its kind. It is fairly common for the police to raid suspected queer parties to arrest everyone in sight — often with little to no proof of the suspects being gay.

As a result of the laws and law enforcement bodies in the country, queer nightlife in Nigeria has been forced to go underground. Bars and clubs are left behind for parties in apartments. Recent years have seen a resurgence in the public profile of queer nightlife in Nigeria — partly thanks to a rise of resistance against oppressive systems within Nigeria that have been supported and have originated on social media, more queer people are becoming brave and open about queer nightlife in Nigeria. Secret house parties, discrete raves and clubs are now becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst young queer Nigerians. Creative collectives like hFactor and Pride in Lagos have pushed the narrative even further by organizing pride-specific events and raves in Lagos over the last few years.

Man making out with man

"‘‘I had been to clubs before but this was different. There was a freedom I didn’t feel in other parties."

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

‘‘My first time at a queer party in Nigeria was in 2021. A friend invited me to a hFactor event and It was such an experience,’ Peju, a 23-year-old bisexual man tells OkayAfrica. ‘‘I had been to clubs before but this was different. There was a freedom I didn’t feel in other parties. Guys were grinding on guys, girls were flirting with girls. There wasn’t a need to pretend to be something I’m not.’’

However, attending these events comes with specific risks. Guests often took precautions — attending the parties with friends, letting their friends who weren’t there know where they were at and confirming there were accessible exits at all times. For many of these attendees, they may have never had to use those themselves but they know of people or at least have heard of people who have had to. Tamuno, a 31-year-old gay man, tells me of a near-capture experience when he had gone to a party in Port Harcourt in 2020.

‘‘There was this party that happened weekly. It became kind of popular and more queer people started coming. What we didn’t account for was that neighbors had realized it was full of queer people,’ Tamuno said. ‘‘One day, we were all at the party and they surrounded the house. Some of us managed to escape, others weren’t as lucky. I wasn't lucky.’’ Tamuno recounts that after being taunted and shamed and then stripped to their boxers for a relatively long time, the police then came. ‘‘The police coming to carry us was what saved us because then my brother, who I called, was able to bribe them to let us go. Whenever I think about what would happen if the police hadn’t come, I experience a full body shudder.’’

a group of people taking photos

Organizers have to find ways to limit people who can gain access to these parties.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

To help combat this, organizers of these events prioritize security and the safety of their guests. It is important that attendees feel safe from homophobic attacks from civilians and the armed forces. To achieve this, organizers have learned to deploy multiple guards.

‘‘Everyone’s safety is a priority to me and this means that multiple channels of security are constantly put in place to help safeguard our guests.’’ Kayode Timileyin, one of the organizers of Pride In Lagos tells OkayAfrica. ‘‘The first of which is the fact that all our events are only by a registration and verification process. Also, external security guards are made available. Lastly, we go all out to look for a real safe space.’’

It doesn’t end at just verifying the identities of the guests. Organizers have to find ways to limit people who can gain access to the location. This might mean generating a password only verified guests are given or keeping the exact location — and sometimes even date — a secret and only given to the verified guests. For these organizers, these security measures are put in place, not against potential miscreants or robbers but instead to keep off the police force and homophobes.

woman wearing black smiling

Despite dangers, the queer nightlife scene is bustling and thriving.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

The underground nightlife scene in Lagos is bustling and thriving — despite the laws that criminalize it and the constant danger. This illustrates the spirit of resilience amongst queer Nigerians who choose to reach for any semblance of freedom they can find even if it is on the dance floor for just a night.

‘‘My experience getting arrested traumatized me. It scared me. I was getting beaten, and paraded and I was so scared that they would kill me. But they didn’t so of course, I’ll party again," Tamuno said. ‘‘I still go to these parties and I’ll still keep going. It’s not that I’m scared. It’s just that when I’m on the dance floor surrounded by other queer men, I feel like my true self. I feel happy. I feel content. And that’s what I want out of life. If I die because I am seeking that, that’s fine.’’

a group of friends taking a photo

More queer people are becoming brave and open about queer nightlife in Nigeria.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kelvyn Boy On Becoming One of Afrobeats’ Leading Stars

The Ghanaian singer narrates how his latest single "Down Flat" has accelerated the trajectory of his career.

Kelvyn Boy is one of the leading afrobeats hitmakers from Ghana. Since his official debut in 2017 under singer Stonebwoy’s record label imprint Burniton Music Group, the talented singer, songwriter, and performer has consistently dished out hit after hit. From the sentimental midtempo ballad “Na You” to the gritty afropop cut “Mea” to his Mugeez and Darkovibes-assisted smash hit “Momo”, with every new release Kelvyn Boy has established his profile as one of the West African nation’s top afrobeats acts.

Fast forward to January 2022, Kelvyn Boy drops his most recent single “Down Flat," an infectious afrobeats single produced by Nigerian producer KullBoiBeatz, and the song has been immensely successful. “Down Flat” has held the number one spot on Apple Music’s “Top 100: Ghana” playlist, hit number 10 on Billboard’s “Worldwide Digital Song Sales” chart, just a couple of out several other accolades the song has landed in the few short months since its release.

The effect of the song’s success has already kicked in, with the singer in London, United Kingdom as I speak to him, which is one of the early stops of his current world tour. “Down Flat” is currently the biggest song of his career so far, and even Kelvyn Boy himself didn’t see it coming. “Some of the great things that happen are unpredictable and unplanned. I didn’t really see it coming” he explained. “Everyone believes in himself or herself. I have that belief and that feeling already when I’m making every song. If it’s not right, I won't sing it. But I didn’t see it coming as quick as it did, and I didn’t know it would get to this level. I knew it was gonna be big, but honestly it got out of hand.”

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Interview: Director K Is Making Historic Music Videos For Afrobeats & Beyond

The 28-year-old director behind the "Essence" music video (and many more) tells us about his come-up, inspirations and working with the biggest stars in the game like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, and more.

African music is sprouting into dominance with the upswing of genres such as Amapiano and Afrobeats across dance floors, day parties, festivals, and gatherings across the globe. Among the ranks of directors curating the visual interpretation of African music; Director K, born Qudus Olaiwola, is an oft-tranquil figure that has charted a lane separate from his contemporaries.

Starting off in the perpetually bristling clusters of Surelere, Lagos, Nigeria as a phone repairer at his uncle’s workshop, Director K’s curiosity shoveled him into believing he could shoot videos on his iPhone. “I used to go super crazy on iPhones, I used to make iPhones do stuff that you couldn’t normally do,” he tells OkayAfrica nostalgically.

Raised in the hovels of Shitta, Surulere, and Lagos — home to Afrobeats trailblazer Wizkid—Director K found a neighborhood artist called C.O. Decoast, and tested his hands at music video directing off the lens of his iPhone. “It wasn’t anything big. It was just something in the hood that I shot with a few people."

Now, in the parking lot of a lush apartment in Lekki, Lagos, Director K regales me with stories of his journey while walking me towards a modest swimming pool. The Creative Arts dropout has had his work nominated for Video Of The Year at the Soul Train Awards, and he has won an NACCP Image Award and Best Music Video at Nigeria’s most-prestigious awards show, The Headies.

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