It’s time for another Shuga fix

2012-02-11 00:00

LIVING with HIV, the sufferers’ stigma, rape and high-risk sexual behaviours are just some of the topics covered­ in the second series of Shuga: Love, Sex, Money, a six-part drama series about sex and relationships among contemporary African youth, which premieres­ on MTV Base (DStv channel 322) at 9.30 pm on February­ 14.

The first series — which aired in 2009 and formed part of a ground-breaking multi-media campaign conceived to spread the message about responsible sexual behaviour and tolerance — was a massive hit and turned its unknown stars into celebrities in Kenya.

Funded by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, the U.S. president’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation (HFG) and the government of Kenya, Shuga is a brutally honest account of relationships among Kenyan youth.

South African producer Angus Gibson, a partner in The Bomb Shelter, producers of the series, had unearthed more great talent.

“The first series was a real talking point for the people of Kenya, and we’re hoping that something similar will happen with season two,” Gibson said, adding that some of the stars of the first season would be making appearances in the new season, but these would be cameos rather than lead roles.

“The stories in the first season all had conclusions, so when we were planning season two we wanted to shift the focus to new characters ... and when we were casting we wanted natural actors. Most of the cast are unknowns and they bring a really natural quality to the screen.”

In the second season — which is directed by South African veteran­ Teboho Mahlatsi and Kenya’s Lupita Nyong’o — 24-year-old Kenyan actress Nancy Wanjiku Karanja features in a controversial story about rape in which her character, Baby, is attacked by a trusted older relative.

Real-life Kenyan musician Avril (Miss B’have) also appears in the drama as part of a heart-breaking love triangle involving Dala (Brenda Wairimu) and Leo (Nick Mutuma), and in a third story­, Kipepeo (Shireen) plays a young singer from Malindi who decides to use her physical charms to further her career.

Nigerian artists Banky W and WizKid both play themselves in the series, performing during emotionally hard-hitting club scenes, while Kenya-based Nigerian musician Ikubese Emmanuel (a.k.a. 9con) plays the role of Femi.

The series was filmed on location in Nairobi and revealed the various sides to this bustling city. “We filmed everywhere — from the highest end of society to the ghetto-like spaces. It was a real privilege to get the view of the place that we got,” Gibson said. “It has a quite astonishing night life. The club life is quite wonderful. I can’t think of any place in Johannesburg which quite replicates it — and that’s exactly the world which Shuga inhabits.”

Gibson, whose company also produced the television series Yizo­ Yizo and hit Jacob’s Cross, revealed that plans are afoot to screen Shuga domestically using one of the SABC channels.

In the meantime, you can catch it on MTV Base from Tuesday.

The series will be followed by a half-hour discussion programme featuring cast, healthcare experts and viewers on Tuesday, March 27.

For more information log onto www.shuga.tv.

ANGUS Gibson is a writer, director and producer, one of South Africa’s premier documentary film-makers, and a founding member of Free Filmmakers, a film co-operative established in 1985 to create a relevant South African cinema.

He produced and directed many documentary projects for European television, including Soweto, A History for Channel 4 in Britain.

In 1994, he co-directed the authorsed biography, Mandela, for Jonathan Demme’s production company. This was nominated for an Oscar and won the Amnesty International Media Spotligh award and the Pare Lorentz Award.

Gibson also designed 60 audio-visual elements for the Apartheid Museum and 20 audio-visual elements for the Hector Pieterson Museum, a multi-media installation about the events leading up to, and including, June 16, 1976.

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