the unique relationship between Africa and science fiction

May 4 is a solemn date for science fiction lovers: “Star Wars” day is celebrated by tens of millions of fans around the world. What about Africa?

“Star Wars”, the science fiction saga created by the American George Lucas, with its many films, comics and derivative products, is a cultural phenomenon that established science fiction as a major category of literature and cinema since the 1970s. , against the backdrop of a pun, the day of May 4 has become an anthology date for science fiction lovers everywhere in the world.

Africa is no exception, with screenings of the original “Star Wars” film trilogy in cinemas in many African countries – South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco among others. However, the science fiction genre is less popular in Africa than in other parts of the world. However, at the production level, many African filmmakers and cartoonists have had great success with their films and comics.

However, when it comes to consumption, science fiction struggles to convince African audiences. The mistake, if one believes the Kenyan journalist Michael Kaloki, that there is a difference between the famous Hollywood productions of science fiction and “the African imagination”. Perhaps one ingredient is missing for science fiction to hit the continent: a touch of “African mythology”.

Sentimentalism and scientific culture in Africa

But the “Star Wars” films inspire different feelings among Africans, fans of this universe or not. It should be noted that many parts of the films in the saga – especially in the original trilogy – were filmed in Africa, especially in Tunisia. The North African country was the primary setting for filming the first film, and many scenes from the four other films in the series were also shot there.

On the occasion of the “Star Wars” day, some fans will travel hundreds of miles to the filming locations, transformed into a tourist site and remain intact for the greatest science fiction lovers delight.

In other African countries, large audiences flock to theaters to watch screenings of these films. But in South Africa, the situation is somewhat special. In this country, The “scientific culture”, especially called “Afrooptimism” or “Afro-futurism”, has awakened the interest of young people, even today, for science fiction.

Read: The surprising success of African science fiction

South Africa is not only the most industrialized country in Africa, it is also the most fertile land in terms of scientific research, and science is an important part of South African culture. It is also one of the factors that explains the development of scientific research, especially in artificial intelligence, in South Africa.

Elsewhere on the continent, where scientific research is rooted, science fiction captivates audiences. In Egypt, land of cinema in addition, but also the African country that invests the most in space sciences, May 4 is celebrated by thousands of fans.

Science fiction and racism, the other side of the coin

But there is a less glorious flipside to this interest in science fiction. In the West, “Star Wars”, and more generally the genre to which the saga belongs, is at the center of the endless debate about racism. In fact, sci-fi references are behind the rise of white supremacy, according to Nigerian actor and producer John Boyega, who plays the character Finn in the latest episode of the trilogy “Star Wars”. The comedian became a victim of cyberbullying by extremists who believed that a black actor had no place in these films.

A racism that has increased in social networks that tends to make people forget that, since the original “Star Wars” trilogy, the role of the most famous character in the series, Anakin Skywalker – Darth Vader – was played by the famous actor and narrator. James Earl Jones.

According to franchise actress Kelly Marie Tran, who also suffered cyberbullying and threats from racist fans, fans “just don’t have the imagination to understand that there are different types of people. living in the world” .

On the other hand, these controversies explain the reasons for the success of some sci-fi franchises that include a more diverse cast, such as “Star Trek” or the film “Black Panther”.

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