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Contributor: Juwon Ogungbe
In exile


For those of us who have grown up both in the UK and in Africa, it is unsurprising that Black Britons who have grown up solely in this country are uneasy about their African origins. Africa and Africans have always been presented on British television as derisory figures only fit for scorn and/or pity.
There are many things about African culture which I personally would question, but our people are not the buffoons they have been made out to be. What is needed, to reverse this perception, is a more accurate vision of Africans in the global popular culture and especially in children?s education and entertainment. In Exile, a new sitcom showing on Channel four, for seven episodes from January, is at least one step in the right direction. Its writer, Tunde Babalola is a Black Briton of Nigerian origin who has given us a slice of high quality comedic writing, drawing from all the strands that inform his cultural background. Featuring a cast of two Black and two White actors (with guest performers in each episode), his Africans speak and behave believably and interact with the White characters in a way that will raise many a chuckle from Swiss Cottage to Peckham and Golders Green to Stockwell.
Babalola has woven into his scripts stories which have now ascended into the realm of political myth such as the attempted kidnapping of Umaru Dikko in the early 1980s (Umaru Dikko was a wanted Nigerian ex-government official was drugged and almost smuggled out in a diplomatic box via Heathrow airport).
In Exile?s main character, General Mukata, is a deposed military dictator. After a coup, Mukata fled from his country with an assistant (Solomon) and, thanks to the British foreign office, he now lives in St John?s wood, London. His white female personal assistant, Ellen, is helping him to adjust to the British way of life and they are monitored closely by Bishop - a foreign office official.
Mukata is played by Patrice Naiambana - an actor of Sierra-Leonean/Bermudan Background. Naiambana is probably the actor most committed in the UK to the growth of serious, credible African drama. I?ve known and worked with him over many years. He has the physical grace (or gawkiness) of John Cleese as well as the resilience and ?hinterland? (apologies, Denis Healey) that could only be acquired through paying one?s dues. Patrice has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Theatre de Complicite, Stephen Berkoff, Royal Court Theatre and with the Double Edge Theatre Company in the memorable musical Ragamuffin.
Between Patrice and Tunde Babalola, a new creation has emerged on our television screens - a real African man with dignity, authority as well as his weird idiosyncrasies. Fraser James, Owen Brennan and the super efficient Emily Joyce are all well experienced television performers and their collective polish provides a cushion for Patrice from where he displays his character?s complex psychological make up. Hopefully, stardom beckons for Naiambana, more creative success for Babalola and classic comedy status for this series and its illustrious team.
 
 
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