First shot and produced for its first two seasons in Nairobi in 2009, MTV Shuga has since travelled to Nigeria for the ‘Naija’ version and now heads to South Africa, for MTV Shuga: Down South an explosive fully-fledged 12-part series and multiplatform franchise.
Set in the homes, cafés, schools, parks and hangouts of fictional South African township, Zenzele, and real- life Braamfontein, MTV Shuga: Down South is the fifth instalment in the multi-award-winning drama series and features an irresponsible teen mom… a predatory teacher…an ambitious hostess… a conflicted adolescent struggling to understand his identity… a neglected trophy wife… a pregnant schoolgirl… a possessive boyfriend, and a ruthless entrepreneur.
The show uses drama to disseminate important public health messages, employing powerful contemporary storylines, relatable characters and an ensemble cast of talented actors and contemporary musicians. An interesting twist, aside from the storyline, is the fact that Shuga DS now boasts a younger generation of 15 to 18 year olds, a world away from the University students we’ve been accustomed to from the Nairobi and Lagos legs. The reason for this, in the new series directed by Mmabatho Montsho, Thabang Moleya and Rea Rangaka, is that they’ve chosen to focus on issues affecting adolescent girls in South Africa, with a particular emphasis on their vulnerability to unintended pregnancy and HIV infection.
Shuga DS follows its predecessors, not shying away from difficult subjects: While season one hinted at homosexuality, and season 3 tackled sponsors, MTV Shuga: Down South interweaves heartbreak, love, betrayal and difficult decisions among contemporary South African youth.
An appealing element of the show is that Africans also get to watch some of the biggest musicians on the continent act on the silver screen. This season, popular musicians Victoria Kimani, Seyi Shay, Fifi Cooper and Kwesta make cameo appearances as themselves, while Mohau Cele returns in the role of dissatisfied schoolgirl/singer Bongi. Emmanuel Ikubese returns as HIV+ music promoter “Femi”, while Kenyan actor Nick Mutuma reprises his role of good boy gone bad, “Leo”.
Vanessa Mdee is scarily convincing in her role as “Storm”, the jilted wife to Clint Brink’s “Rakeem”. Other key roles are played by Adesua Etomi, Thuso Mbedu, Mohau Cele, Jezriel Skei, Lerato Walaza, Given Stuurman, Samkelisiwe Makhoba, Stephanie Sandows, S’thandiwe Kgoroge, Phila Mazibuko and Ayanda Makayi.
“Previous seasons of MTV Shuga have been proven to change young peoples’ behaviour and attitudes relating to safe sex and HIV,” added Georgia Arnold, Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, “While the series is moved to a South African setting and context for the first time, we know that MTV Shuga: Down South will continue to speak to young people all over the world, and make further strides in changing attitudes to unplanned pregnancies, and other health and emotional issues among African youth.”
The MTV Shuga campaign in Kenya will include two complementary episodes of TV series, MTV Shuga In Real Life, plus a 15-part radio drama series, a peer educator programme, a comic book, audience polling, social media and a range of digital platforms.
At the launch held at PAWA 254, MultiChoice East Africa Commercial General Manager. Kenneth Oyolla expressed his delight that customers would be reunited with their favourite local stars on the home of MTV Base DStv Channel 322 and GOtv Channel 72.
He sighted the rise and rise of Lupita Nyong’o’s star since her days on the series.
MTV Shuga: Down South is supported by the South African government’s Department of Basic Education, PEPFAR (The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), Marie Stopes International, ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action MSM & Transgender Programme, CIFF (Children’s Investment Fund Foundation) and FHI 360 (Family Health International).
MTV Shuga: Down South is produced on behalf of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and MTV Base by Quizzical Pictures.
MTV Shuga: Down South airs on MTV Base (DStv channel 322) on Wednesdays at 00:05 EAT, Sundays on Citizen TV at 23:00 EAT; and on KBC Tuesdays at 22:30 EAT.