Still from 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.' Photo by Ilze Kitshoff, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The 'Africa In the Media' Study Shows How Africans are Misrepresented in American Television

The new report from the Africa Narrative Project found that Africans are still grossly underrepresented in American television programming.

What does it mean for Africans to be fully and truly represented in the media? For many folks of African decent that question remains painfully unanswered.

An extensive new report from the Africa Narrative project, from the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, seeks to provide understanding around the current state of African representation in US media, and identify ways to ensure a "richer telling of Africa's story."

The groups' "Africa in the Media" report is a thorough and timely study that confirms a lack of meaningful storytelling in television news and entertainment, which reflect the ways many Africans see themselves. Their findings show that Africa continues to be both underrepresented and misrepresented in the American media landscape.


For the report, a group of researchers analyzed over 700,000 hours of programming, as well as a whopping 1.6 million tweets related to the African continent and its people. They found that despite the appearance of progress—with major motion pictures such as Black Panther rocking the film industry—there is still a long way to go to in ensuring that Africa is portrayed in the media in a way that is reflective of reality.

The study revealed several concerning details about Africa's presence in the media. According to the report, television viewers are seven times more likely to hear references to Europe than to Africa, and when Africa is mentioned, it is only done so in a positive light 14 percent of the time. Narratives centered on Africans are commonly centered on trauma and crime.

African actors are also generally reduced to minor roles on television, even when a story line is primarily focused on Africa, and on top of that, only 31 percent of African characters on television are women.

Researchers found that diverse country representation is also severely lacking. The study shows that out of the continent's 54 countries, just five nations "grab the bulk of attention" in American television programming. They are: Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Seychelles, and Congo, which account for 49 percent of all mentions of Africa.

Perhaps more unsettling is that in many television portrayals, Africans are often hyper-sexualized, Johanna Blakley, the Managing Director of the Norman Lear Center, tells OkayAfrica. "We monitored every genre of TV programming, but I focused mostly on entertainment depictions of Africa and I was most unsettled by the way Africa and African people were associated with primal sexuality, says Blakley. "We had created a coding sheet with 32 topics to track: it never occurred to us that these sexual stereotypes would appear so frequently in both dramatic and comedic contexts."

Despite the bleak outlook, the Africa Narrative Project has offered detailed suggestions on how these major discrepancies in African representation can be offset. One way is by "increasing the number of stories that mine the rich and diverse cultures and histories of Africa—including in children's programming—and develop more scripted content that doesn't focus on crime," another is by "collaborating with content creators from Africa and the diaspora."

For Blakely, the report provides accuracy and vital data that can be used to help build stronger, more culturally-minded narratives. "I believe that it's very difficult to solve a problem unless you can describe it accurately," says Blakely. "With this research, we've provided scholars and activists and storytellers the evidence they need to argue for more and better stories about Africa. We've also set a baseline against which we can measure the progress of initiatives like The Africa Narrative, which will work with educators, advocates, government agencies and the media industry to elevate African stories and storytellers."

There is much work to be done in ensuring that Africans are afforded representation that we can be proud of. Equipping ourselves with information on the current media climate is vital, and the "African in the Media" report is a valuable place to start.

If you'd like to learn more about how Africans are depicted in mass media, read the full report here.

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(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for AFI)

Cynthia Erivo Earns Golden Globe Nomination for 'Harriet'

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees (and the snubs).

Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman in Harriet. She's earned a nomination for Best Original Song for 'Stand Up."

She's nominated in the "Best Performance by an Actress In a Motion Picture—Drama" alongside Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Renée Zellwegger and Saoirse Ronan.

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Image courtesy of Trap Bob.

Trap Bob Is the 'Proud Habesha' Illustrator Creating Colorful Campaigns for the Digital Age

The DMV-based artist speaks with OkayAfrica about the themes in her work, collaborating with major brands, and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her work.

DMV-based visual artist Tenbeete Solomon also known as Trap Bob is a buzzing illustrator using her knack for colorful animation to convey both the "humor and struggle of everyday life."

The artist, who is also the Creative Director of the creative agency GIRLAAA has been the visual force behind several major online movements. Her works have appeared in campaigns for Giphy, Girls Who Code, Missy Elliott, Elizabeth Warren, Apple, Refinery 29 and Pabst Blue Ribbon (her design was one of the winners of the beer company's annual art can contest and is currently being displayed on millions of cans nationwide). With each striking illustration, the artist brings her skillful use of color and storytelling to the forefront.

Her catalog also includes fun, exuberant graphics that depict celebrities and important moments in Black popular culture. Her "Girls In Power" pays homage to iconic women of color in a range of industries with illustrated portraits. It includes festive portraits of Beyoncé, Oprah, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama to name a few.

Trap Bob is currently embarking on an art tour throughout December, which sees her unveiling murals and recent works for Pabst Blue Ribbon in her hometown of DC and during Art Basel in Miami. You can see her tour dates here.

We caught up with the illustrator via email, to learn more about the themes in her work and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her illustrations. Read it below and see more of Trap Bob's works underneath.

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Burna Boy. Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage (via Getty Images).

The 20 Best Nigerian Songs of 2019

Featuring Burna Boy, Rema, Tiwa Savage, Zlatan, Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Teni, Davido, Lady Donli and many more.

2019 was another huge year for Nigerian music.

Zlatan's presence was ubiquitous and powered by the zeal for zanku, a dance which is now de rigueur. Rema led the charge for a group of young breakthrough artists that include Fireboy DML and Joeboy. They all represent an exciting crop of talents that point the way forward for Nigerian pop.

Burna Boy's new dominance, built around his excellent African Giant album, delivered on his rare talents, while the long wait for Davido's sophomore album, A Good Time, paid off in satisfying fashion. Simi's Omo Charlie Champagne Vol. 1 announced her departure from her longterm label. Tiwa Savage also made a highly-discussed move from Mavin Records to Universal Music Group. Meanwhile, Yemi Alade exuded female strength with her latest record, Woman of Steel.

Not to be left out, Wizkid sated demands for his fourth album with a new collaborative EP following a year of stellar features that included his presence on Beyoncé's Lion King: The Gift, an album which also boasts Tekno, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage. Mr Eazi also notably launched his emPawa initiative to help fund Africa's promising up-and-coming artists.

Asa returned in a formidable form with Lucid, while buzzing artists like Tay Iwar, Santi, and Lady Donli all shared notable releases. Lastly, the beef between Vector and M.I climaxed and sparked a resurgence of Nigerian rap releases from Phyno to Ycee, PsychoYP and more.

Read on for the best Nigerian songs of 2019. Listed in no particular order. —Sabo Kpade

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

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OkayAfrica Presents: 'The Adinkra Oracle' December Reading with Simone Bresi-Ando

We're back with another Adinkra reading from Simone Bresi-Ando to help guide you through the end of the year—and the end of the decade.

It's the a new month and that means we're ready for a new Adinkra reading from Simone Bresi-Ando to help you navigate your December.

After cleansing the space, Simone will pull five Adinkra Ancestral Guidance Cards from a deck of 44 Adinkra symbols—these cards help to channel information, messages and direction from your ancestors using Adinkra symbols when read correctly. Remember, as Simone says, "these readings tell you what you need to know and not necessarily what you want to know—our ancestors are emotionally pure."

Simone gives a general reading of what December has in store to help you know what actions and thoughts are necessary to get the best out of the month. This is a special installment as it also guides you through the end of the year—and the end of the decade.

Watch below.

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