AFRICA WITH ADE ADEPITAN is a moving and educational BBC documentary series, whose first episode sees Ade traversing and learning about the lives and tribulations of various communities in West Africa.
In his new four part documentary, Ade sets out to discover how modern Africa is changing, paying specific attention to the roles individuals and small communities are playing. He has stated that his purpose for this was to redirect the narrative of Africa as a war torn and famine ridden continent and highlight the complexity and diversity of the people.
It proves compelling and explores a range of themes including what life is like for different groups in developing countries and the struggles placed on them by foreign and domestic governments.
He begins with Cape Verde, visiting a series of towns including one in the shadow of a volcano. Next he travels down the Senegalese coast, stopping off to explore various fishing communities and the historic Goree Island, a significant staging post in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He then visits a footballing academy in the Ivory Coast before finishing the episode in Nigeria, visiting old friends in Lagos - a huge Evangelical Church, several refugee camps and the headquarters of an African tech-giant.
Upon watching the episode, it becomes difficult to see how this documentary stands out against the dozens of others that have explored life in Africa. Whilst his aim was to change the stereotype of Africa as an unstable and impoverished region, the episode nevertheless largely follows the familiar format of highlighting the suffering and political turmoil within countries and their historic oppression by Europe.
He spends significant time focusing on the issues of poverty in various communities such as the Senegalese fishing towns and the lack of state support for the poor in Nigeria. He also spends a good portion exploring villages destroyed by conflict in Nigeria.
Perhaps the most heart warming and original element of the episode is Ade’s personal connection to Nigeria and his visit to the group of fellow polio survivors making a living on the streets of Lagos. This personal aspect and Ade’s natural charismatic charm are what makes this series work and feel new despite following a similar formula to other travel documentaries.
His gift for communicating stories makes the episode easy to follow for those unfamiliar with Africa’s geography or political context.
What the series seems to lack is a definitive theme or purpose as, despite Ade’s stated aims, it can feel like a disorganised cluster of reports which vary significantly. At times it feels like a documentary on African sport, at others a historical report and at others it can feel like part of a charity appeal. Whilst something of a jumble, the episode does offer an interesting insight into the lives of various communities and individuals however.
It also clearly has a heart to it and Ade’s passion is evident from start to finish and makes it worth a watch. It will be interesting to see whether the rest of the series is able to come together and deliver on its purpose and find an original angle.
- Watched on BBC Two. 03/02/2019