mtv-shuga-ds-59-of-91.jpgOn Monday evening I hosted the launch of MTV Shuga’s fifth season themed Down South and shot in South Africa. Thank you MTV Base Africa for the opportunity, I am so honoured. It was cool that Kenyan actor, the MTV Shuga veteran Nick Mutuma was at the launch, joined by South African actress Thuso Mdedu, “Ipeleng” on the show and Sara Piot the Deputy Director of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, among other cast and crew members.

We watched a special recap of Down South’s first three episodes then got a world premiere of the show’s episode 4, 5 & 6 out for the total 12. I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t watched till Eps 6 but I will just say that this is the most powerful Shuga season yet. If you can wait – binge-watch later because waiting for episode by episode on something this short and sweet makes me go crazy.

Looking at Shuga’s history, I feel like the bulk of characters from the older seasons were a little more like me, making the stories relatable to my life and experiences. At the time of watching, I felt like I could have easily made similar mistakes and for that reason Shuga empowered me. This season resonates to me in a totally different way as its pushing boundaries and emitting similarly strong themes like gender-based violence, rape and teenage pregnancy amongst other issues revolving around sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS only this time directly targeting younger teens while bringing to the forefront  the stories society is shunning or hiding every day.

I must commend the producers and directors: Mmabatho Montsho, Thabang Moleya and Rea Rangaka for maintaining the show’s message and identity across seasons despite crossing the cities and cultures of Nairobi, Lagos and now Jozi.

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Congrats to our Nick who returns on the new season as a troubled “Leo” trying to escape his past demons from Lagos following an altercation with his girlfriend while having sex– what ends up being rape. At the launch, “Leo” recalled the experience to have been deeply “emotional and reflective” on his character and real person.

Kenyans are known to be hustlers extraordinaire and as the character of Nick takes onto a new career and city, chances are he will reinvent himself and hopefully not end up in another messed up relationship. Even though I am Nick’s Publicist, he won’t reveal.

Meanwhile, Leo’s best friend on the show “Femi” played by Emmanuel Ikubese is in deep trouble with his boss’s wife “Storm” played by first-time actress Tanzanian singer Vanessa Mdee. Between Eps 1- 6 Kwesta, Seyi Shay, Praiz and Rosa Ree make cameos. Other musicians who you can expect to show up include Victoria Kimani and Fifi Cooper. Can’t watch to get to the season finale already to see how it all unfolds.

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With stories of heartbreak, love, betrayal and family, Shuga DS will this season challenge all the reasons why young people are still having uninformed sex – a situation that’s affecting the youth of South Africa just like in Kenya. I have some hard facts from Kenya’s National Aids Control Council (NACC) for a Daily Nation article I have been drafting.

According to the last stats released in 2016, the rate of HIV prevalence in Kenya has more than doubled among the youth in the past two years before 2016—something that got me conversing with my mentor and former producer, JB, who is now Head of Communications at NACC. JB stated: “Young people continuously feel like they are too young to get tested for HIV despite the fact that they are increasingly engaging in sexual activities. This is obviously making them more prone to contracting HIV.”

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Fun Fact – I used to work at BBC Swahili, Nairobi Bureau as a Program Assistant and Reporter for Kimasomaso (Speaking Boldly), a health program that aimed at imparting behavioral changes and sensitizing youth on sexual and reproductive health while highlighting on topical issues and research findings on matter pertaining HIV/AIDS and my Producer and one of my other mentors was the great Tom Japanni now head of Radio Maisha 🙂

The two brilliant moments at the event were the screening and the Q&A session – there was not one cheap question, just an inappropriate joke I wish I could throw back at the person who muttered it. Nway, I am hoping that next year Shuga comes back home – to Nairobi and grants redemption to all.

Catch Down South on KBC, Citizen TV, DStv and GOtv or YouTube. Join the conversation via #MTVShugaDS

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