Have you been watching Shuga? You should be.
Take it from us, it’s the best series to have come out of Africa, nay Nigeria in a very very long time.
After it’s huge premier last November with the creme of Nollywood in attendance, the show has since received critical acclaim. With a cast including singer Tiwa Savage who’s character is the doting mother of a boy living with HIV, the show was bound to receive a lot of attention, just what the producers wanted.
Shuga is a drama with a message. It aims to draw awareness to difficult issues that our society refuses to talk about. HIV prevention, multiple sexual partners, teenage pregnancy and gender equality are just some of the themes in the drama.
Shuga has got Nigeria talking about HIV/AIDS in a way that has hitherto proven difficult with prevention campaigns and religious intervention.
The stories are real and depict situations everyone can relate to. From wayward siblings visiting their sisters on campus and refusing to leave because they’re having so much fun, to young students hoping from one ‘Aristo’ to another all in a bid to achieve the ‘big girl’ status on campus.
In one moving episode, a boy (Weki) played by Olumide Owuro, who was born with HIV confesses to his new team mates gathered in the changing rooms just as they’re about to begin a football match that would hopefully see them launching their professional careers.
The initial reaction to his news is hard to watch but not surprising in our Society. A comical, yet distressing moment in the drama came when the news quickly spread within the stadium stalls like wild-fire, prompting one of the mothers to demand the exclusion of Weki from the team as he might ‘infect’ others. She was so livid, she threatened to call the police.
It was heartwarming to see that her own son was the first to embrace Weki with the entire football team united in coming together to accept him as a part of their team, regardless of his health status.
This of course, is a scene we would all love to see as the norm in Nigeria. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple, even though our society is gradually changing and learning to accept that HIV is real but it most certainly isn’t a death sentence.
The series also touches on the issue of domestic abuse. Malaika (Leonara Okine), a beautiful student is married to a brutal man (Ghanaian actor Chris Attoh), who’s turned her into a punching bag. His actions have grave consequences for this young woman as their relationship comes to a head.
All the complexities of relationships are explored in this poignant drama that will force you to confront common preconceptions and prejudice about HIV/AIDS. Cheating, parenting and adolescence are all delved into in great detail.
Shuga, directed by Biyi Bandele who also co-wrote most of the episodes with other screenwriters is a must watch for every African seeking to understand the intricacies of living with HIV.
It’s drama that has managed to achieve what few others have been able to. Taking us on a journey into the minds of Nigerian youths, providing answers to the why, how and who of the HIV pandemic in Nigeria.
Shuga is funded by MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation and is being distributed to broadcasting networks free of charge. The last two series of the show which featured Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, was based on the lives of Kenya’s young middle class.
The show is currently being aired on Africa Channel and BET in the UK.