“Strictly Come Dancing” With African Flavour

"Let’s face it. While all Africans from Morocco to South Africa may all be officially and racially classified as “Blacks” in United Kingdom, there are grades in blackness as far as the ordinary White Brit is concerned."

By Jacob J Akol
One of my favourite annual programmes on the BBC enriched itself in the 2019 episode by adding two more Africans into the mix. Real Africans I mean, not Black Brits or pseudo Africans from across the Atlantic, popularly known over there as “African Americans”.

Of these two pseudo categories of “Africans”, one of them, a Brit DJ celebrity, won the coveted prize a couple of years ago. Good luck to you fellow “African”.

The other one has been popping in and out from across the ocean as a judge for one weekend in the last couple of years, in the place of Judge Bruno Tunioli. I have no idea what sort of arrangement they have made with their networks; but the African American is just as funny and as the Latino. You may have seen the guy starring on that American TV comedy called “Fresh Prince of Bellaire”. He is the short one, son of the millionaire.

Anyway, back to real Africans, three of them, all professional dancers from Black South Africans. Let’s look at them one by one, beginning with the youngest, the longest on the show and the most beautiful: Her name is Oti Mabuse, as tall, pretty and slender as a reed from the middle shores of White Nile; but not anywhere near ebony black.

Let’s face it. While all Africans from Morocco to South Africa may all be officially and racially classified as “Blacks” in United Kingdom, there are grades in blackness as far as the ordinary White Brit is concerned.

Nigerian writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Wole Soyinka, depicted these various shades of blackness many decades ago in his poem: 'Telephone Conversation', in which an African character was looking for accommodation in London:

“The price seemed reasonable, location Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived off premises. Nothing remained But self-confession. ‘Madam’ I warned, ‘I hate a wasted journey – I am African’.

"Silence. Silence transmission of Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came, Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully. ‘HOW DARK ?’… I had not misheard… ‘ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?’…”

To cut a long poem short, the lady on the other end of the telephone line mellowed a little and considerately varied the query: ‘ARE YOU DARK OR VERY LIGHT?’

To be honest, none of us Ebony Kings and Queens of Central White Nile Nuba Mountain and Senegal-Gambia could have passed through such narrow threshold of shades of black.

But Soyenka’s character must have been a West African below Gambia-Senegal corridor. So he gambled on: “You mean - like plane or milk chocolate?”

But even he was getting impatient with lady’s silent considerations; so he volunteered: “West African sepia –and as an afterthought, “Down in my passport”.

The lady disappeared into silence once more, then reappeared: ‘WHAT’S THAT?’ conceding ‘DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.’ ‘Like brunette’, pressed on the African. ‘THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?’

After a few more attempts to persuade the lady, the African ended it all by begging: ‘Madam,’ I pleaded, ‘wouldn’t you rather See for yourself?’

Well, Oti is chocolate-black but as graceful as any ebony reed of the Sudd. She and her partner won the 2019 prize of 'Strictly Come Dancing.'

The second ‘real African’ in the mix happened to be Oti’s own sister, Motsi Mabuse, one of the four judges of Strictly. She complimented Bruno Tunioli very well indeed with her African touch.

While Bruno wowed the audience with his characteristic Latino body gestures, Motsi does not only impress with her considerable skills and experience on the dance floor, she also submitted to her emotions when a situation presented itself. For example, she broke down in tears to express her heartfelt appreciation of brave and valiant attempts of a handicapped celebrity on the dance floor.

The third ‘real African’ was also from South Africa of chocolate- black complexion. A professional dancer, he quivered on the dance floor as smoothly as a cartoon penguin on ice. With hips and backbone swaying with music as flexibley and as smoothly as if made of jelly bones, there was something hauntingly feminine about the fellow, a fact he later revealed as being proudly gay, a clear prelude and introduction of what is to come in the next Strictly.

Being homosexual or lesbian does not keep any relative or friends awake anymore around here these days. If anything, one feels somewhat prudish for not knowing a gay or having lesbian friend, leave alone having heard of one.

And they don’t come any richer or more celebrated than Graham Norton of TV fame or musician performer multi-millionaire Allton John.

It is now official: the 2020 BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing will include fairing of gays and lesbian celebrities and professional dancers. “No discrimination on sexual orientation in United Kingdom”. That’s the law. 


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