Queen Sono: A new dawn for African storytelling

by Katlego Nkosi

The groundbreaking series that is bringing an African story, by Africans, to the world stage.

[Caption: South Africa’s very own Pearl Thusi leads Netflix first original African series. (Photo: justwatch.com)]

With the month of May recognised as Africa Month, we decided to highlight one of our favourite African shows of 2020.

Queen Sono is Netflix’s very first African original series and premiered 28 February of this year.

Queen Sono, played by the gorgeous Pearl Thusi, is the daughter of a South African veteran that was assassinated before her eyes. While on a journey to find her mother’s killer, she leads a double life - secretly working for the South African government’s secret service.

The series received great reception not only in South Africa and the continent but globally as well.

It trended heavily on social media after its release with hashtags such as #QueenSono within the top ten trending topics on Twitter in South Africa. It also rated a high 90% on Rotten Tomatoes while Metacritic gave it 70 out of 100 - the perfect marriage between critical acclaim and commercial success.

This success is a huge achievement, especially for the African television and film industry as it shows that our talent is being recognised internationally. It also paves a way for future film and television makers in Africa, showing that it is possible for our works to be appreciated internationally and sit among the world-class.

This amazing series, created and directed by Kagiso Lediga, features an array of multi-generational South African talent including the legendary Abigail Kubeka as Queen Sono’s grandmother; South Africa’s very own hunk, actor Vuyo Dabula; Black Panther actress Connie Chume and comedian Loyiso Mdina playing Queen Sono’s right-hand man and partner in crime.

The production of the series, in front of the lens and behind it, is not only proudly South African but proudly African.

From the editors, cinematographers and composers, writers, directors and extra cast members, this is a pan-African affair. The setting of this series takes place in different countries in Africa showcasing the beauty and variety within the continent.

The series was shot in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and South Africa. The use of different languages in every respective region such as French, Yoruba, Shona, Afrikaans and Swahili further highlights the diversity within the continent while dispelling the monolingual stereotype.

The integration of local production units in these respective countries highlights their individual customs and culture, providing further authentic storytelling.

The soundtrack for Queen Sono is another way in which African storytelling is furthered. The music used throughout the series showcases a variety of genres within African music.

The title song was composed by African music heavyweights Sho Madjozi, Sauti Sol and Black Motion. All of these artists are known for incorporating their own culture into their music whether it's lyrically (use of indigenous and/or multiple languages) or sonically.

Riky Rick, Caiphus Semenya, Simi and Msaki are some of the local artists whose songs feature in the series.

The series did not exclude other popular tracks from outside Africa as music from American artists such as Lizzo can also be heard.

The plot of Queen Sono is based around trying to undo the injustice that has previously been done against Africans and restoring what has always been ours to keep.

The story that is being told in this series is one of many realities that South Africans and Africans face. With our past being so sad and bitter, it is inevitable that its effect will live on for many years.

Many people, till this day, do not have the answers that they yearn for and it is unfortunate that the truth might never really come out. It is then touching to see this groundbreaking story of justice and the lengths in which an individual goes through in order to find their closure.

People are indeed looking forward to the second season of Queen Sono with great enthusiasm.

We, for one, are very proud to be able to live in a time of storytelling for Africans by Africans.

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