Cheikh hoists his second wife Mareme onto his shoulder and carries her to their rose petal-covered bed, where he lays her down.
The frolicking couple embrace and….what happens next is left to the viewer’s imagination as the camera suddenly switches to a pair of white slippers, the bedroom door closes and the scene ends.
In soap operas in other parts of the world, such coy depictions of sex would be considered unremarkable, even dreary.
But in conservative Senegal, where even an on-screen kiss is rare, the self-described monitors of public morality are in uproar.
The show — “Maitresse d’un homme marie” (“Mistress of a married man”) — has also already been cautioned by the state’s media watchdog for being too racy.
But defenders say the soap takes a desperately-needed look at relationship issues such as male abuse, the pain experienced by abandoned spouses and a woman’s right to sexual pleasure.
“Maitresse d’un homme marie” follows five young women characters, all strong-minded, freewheeling city dwellers.
Some start affairs with married men and — as in the case of Mareme — end up marrying them.
‘Cast judgement’ –
In Dakar’s Sicap Liberte 3 district, the Sene family is glued to its TV for the twice-a-week show.
In between adverts blaring out the virtues of a brand of local rice, bubbly single mother Rose condemns the threat of censorship hanging over her favourite programme.
“Maitresse”, she says, holds up a mirror to hypocrisy and inequality in Senegal.
“Men who criticise the series are the same ones who have mistresses and what they do to them is far worse than what you see on the screen,” she said.
“They cast judgement on the women (in the show) because they are single, because they are in charge of their lives,” said Rose.
“In Senegal, if you are not married by the time you are 30, you are not a good woman. In this country, it doesn’t matter even if you’re a huge success, if you’re not a man, you’re nothing.”
Launched in January, the show goes out at prime time on the commercial channel 2STV and is also avidly followed on YouTube, where each episode is watched between one and two million times.
Devotion to the series is such that one actor was slapped by an elderly woman while exercising.
“She told him, ‘Stop drinking and look after your family’,” the show’s executive producer, Kalista Sy, recounted, with a giggle.
Senegal is predominantly Muslim — mostly following the Sufi strain — where public displays of affection or sex outside marriage are frowned upon.
Within weeks of the series’ launch, a powerful Muslim NGO, Jamra, asked the country’s audiovisual watchdog, the CNRA, to crack down.
After deliberation, the CNRA on March 29 allowed the series to continue provided there were “corrective measures” to the script. Without these changes, the show would have to be screened late at night, or face being banned altogether.
Everything seemed to be going fine until the 34th episode — the scene of Cheikh and Mareme canoodling on the marital bed.
“They crossed the red line. They offended a large proportion of Senegalese by broadcasting virtually pornographic content during the blessed month of Ramadan,” Jamra’s Mactar Gueye told reporters.
“It is unthinkable that this apology for fornication and adultery continues in this form,” he said, in an interview at his home where a giant TV screen was turned on to a telenovela channel showing soap operas.
Sexual emancipation –
The female characters on “Maitresse” often bear the brunt of the moral messages — on-screen marriage-breakers, for instance, are verbally lashed by friends and family for their behaviour.
But for Senegalese feminist activist Fatou Kine Diouf, this finger wagging has had less impact on viewers than the theme of sexual emancipation.
“The series shows women who are in charge of their sexuality. It will never get directly shown on screen but everyone is talking about it. In that respect, the series is really powerful.”
The soap opera’s set is a joyful buzz of actors, technicians and makeup artists, working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.
In a tired voice, Sy, the executive producer, says that male hostility, religious objections and technical hitches are her daily challenges.
“But when young women watch the show and identify with characters that are like them, they are deeply touched,” she said.
“And nobody can take that away from us.”
5 Albums We Are Excited About In 2020
Building up on the success of the previous year, 2020 promises a lot of amazing music.
2019 was quite an interesting year for African music. Heralded by Nigeria’s Afrobeats, records out of the continent penetrated the Western markets and sparked impressive engagements across the world.
Burna Boy’s album “African Giant” secured a Grammy nomination and also topped the end of the year lists of many international publications. Beyoncé also featured an all-star cast of some of the biggest names across the continent on her “The Lion King.” Of course, this helped to reintroduce them to new markets and thrust their names in global music conversations.
Building up on the success of the previous year, 2020 looks to promise a lot of amazing music. Here is a list of the five albums we are excited to get our hands on in 2020.
Wizkid – Made In Lagos
Ever since the release of his international project, “Sounds From The Other Side,” fans across Africa have been clamouring for the release of Wizkid’s fourth full-length, “Made in Lagos” which he himself has been teasing for quite a while title. Last year, Wizkid took to his Instagram to tease snippets of a couple of songs expected to be on the project. And with the official release of his 2019 singles, ‘Joro’ and ‘Ghetto Love’, fans and general music lovers are fully ready for the long-teased Wizkid project this year.
Khaligraph Jones – TBA
Coming off his big win at the 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards, picking up the Best Hip-hop act trophy over heavyweights like Sarkodie, Kwesta and Falz, the time is ripe for a new album Kenyan rapper. Popular for his distinct rapid-fire flow, Khaligraph Jones has been at the helm of Kenya’s hip-hop over the years. With the anticipated follow-up to his 2018 debut album, “Testimony 1900,” he’d seek to reassert his dominance this year in the region and the continent.
Adekunle Gold – Afropop
2019 witnessed a turning point in Adekunle Gold’s artistry and public image. With releases like ‘Young Love’ and Before You Wake Up’ in 2019, Adekunle Gold’s sound has morphed into something more pop-centric, substituting the traditional African sound for something more synthetic. The singer has also been more expressive with his fashion and outlook. This, therefore, makes his next project “Afropop” one to look out for, as we’d love to find an Adekunle Gold shed his signature sound for something more pop and trendy.
Sho Madjozi – TBA
South African rapper, Sho Madjozi was one of the most exciting acts out of the continent last year. Coming off the success of her 2018 debut album “Limpopo Champions League,” the singer went on to release her hit record ‘John Cena’, a song even the WWE superstar himself approves. Sho Madjozi went on to enjoy an amazing press run that kept her in everyone’s face. And now, she has built up so much hype around herself that her fans across the continent are waiting for what she plans to release next.
Shatta Wale – TBA
Undoubtedly one of Africa’s most controversial superstars, Ghana’s Shatta Wale is one known for his consistency across his album. Ever since 2016, not a year has gone by without a project from the self-crowned dancehall king. And given the quality of his stellar 2018 and 2019 releases, “Reign” and “Wonder Boy,” many are already wondering what king Shatta would come up with next.
Sniffing out the menace called poaching
The role of man’s best friend in the war against poaching
There is an old saying that borders on hunters learning to shoot without aiming, since birds have learned to fly without perching. In the same vein, as perpetrators of illegal activities devise new ways to escape detection and punishment, those dedicated to apprehending them need to, in turn, implement new methods to remain one step ahead. The war against wildlife poaching still rages on as the years roll by, but in recent times, poachers and smugglers have had to deal with a new adversary: man’s best friend.
In hunting for hides, skin, horns and tusks, these people, whose life’s work is to put wildlife at risk for material gain, have deployed all sorts of modern weaponry in furthering their cause, but now they will have to deal with dogs, too. Deployed in various locations across six African countries, there are scores of these dogs, who have helped in tracking down smugglers and traffickers with their efficiency in sniffing out elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales.
Since Canines for Conservation, the programme initiated to involve dogs in the fight against wildlife poaching, kicked off in 2011, there have been 400 seizures of illegal wildlife products. These days, wildlife authorities in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and Cameroon require employees to be skilled in dog handling. Employees who take up the handling of dogs undergo training programmes which stretch for up to 10 weeks, and they are also carefully matched with the dogs that they would be working with.
Wild animals are being poached on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured from their native habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, and other charismatic animals. Some animals, such as birds, reptiles, and primates, are captured live so that they can be kept or sold as exotic pets. Slaughtered animals, on the other hand, have commercial value as food, jewellery, decor, or traditional medicine. The ivory tusks of African elephants, for example, are carved into trinkets or display pieces. The meat of apes, snakes, and other bush animals is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.
Poaching has devastating consequences for wildlife. In some instances, it’s the primary reason why an animal faces a risk of extinction. This is the case with the African elephant, more than 100,000 of which were killed between 2014 and 2017 for ivory. Poaching has also had a catastrophic impact on rhinos, with more than a thousand slaughtered a year for their horns.
Training these dogs to top levels of detecting takes about 4 to 5 months. All the wildlife products they are required to sniff out are hidden in various ways, from wrapping ivory in jars of coffee to putting a lion’s tooth in a thermos. The dogs sniff luggage and cargoes at airports, and the Canines for Conservation programme, aware of the tactics employed by traffickers, works closely with airport authorities in the countries where the dogs are deployed. These canine partners, whose role in fighting wildlife poachers over the years has been acknowledged, are also fed specially, and are kept in kennels and large spaces where they can relax.
The smiles associated with a homecoming
What the return of diasporan Africans means for the continent
Ghana declared the year 2019 as “the Year of Return”, opening its doors for African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans and other diasporan Africans to return to the continent and obtain citizenship if they so desired. In the past couple of months, that move has not only impacted the nation once referred to as “the Gold Coast” from a socio-cultural and economic perspective, it has also signalled a renewed wave of African consciousness that is slowly but gradually reverberating across other countries.
In terms of cultural dynamics, Ghana is currently experiencing a moment similar to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, a movement in the United States characterised by an increased interest in African art and culture at a time when racism and segregation – aided by legislation – still thrived in many parts of America. The major difference now is that this new wave is beyond a mere display of interest in “the motherland”, it has more to do with fully experiencing and getting immersed in African culture. According to observers, the dichotomy between Africans and those in the diaspora is slowly fading away, to the extent that diasporan Africans are gradually beginning to see that, in the words of the late reggae music legend Peter Tosh, “as long as you’re a black man, you are an African”.
In the final weeks of 2019, Ghana played host to more than a few high-profile celebrities, including comedian Steve Harvey, supermodel Naomi Campbell, actors Boris Kodjoe and Danny Glover, as well as musicians T.I, Cardi B and Ludacris. In a bold statement of endearment to African roots, Ludacris would go on to obtain citizenship of Gabon, a French-speaking West African nation.
Diasporan Africans trooped into Ghana in their numbers in 2019, leading to a 6.7% increase in the country’s GDP growth rate in the first quarter of last year. There was also a noticeable growth in the country’s private sector amidst the expansion of local businesses, and the influence of this socio-cultural shift on Ghana’s tourism industry is impossible to ignore.
Beyond economic figures, the influx of returnees from the diaspora also illustrates the power in numbers. Ghana’s Year of Return has proven to be a successful experiment, and it is hoped that more African countries follow in its footsteps.
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