Local illustrators share their views on the latest Strong Black Lead content on Netflix

If you regularly flex your streaming muscle, you’ll know that Netflix is home to some great black content. More so, the platform brings the Strong Black Lead movement to life, both on and behind the screen.

For some people, the idea of strong black content might seem strange and possibly even unnecessary. For others it might just be annoying, but for me – and others like me – growing up in a world where I didn’t get to see people who looked like me on TV was a way of saying that I didn’t have a voice and that anyone who looked like me didn’t have a voice.

We see these arguments arise whenever a major production company announces a person of colour taking a lead role which some consider them to not be suitable for. I for one am glad that these companies don’t capitulate to these ridiculous demands from people who’ve always been able to see themselves represented, and I’m grateful that companies like Netflix continue to improve their roster of strong black – and strong queer – content.

Point in case are three recent releases: When They See Us, a four-part limited series from director Ava DuVernay that explores the criminal justice system through the true story of the Central Park Five; She’s Gotta Have It, a comedy-drama series created by Spike Lee following artist Nola Darling’s romantic life in gentrified Brooklyn; and Good Girls, a crime comedy-drama series, now in its second season, about three suburban moms who orchestrate a local grocery store heist to escape financial ruin. 

Netflix South Africa partnered with three creatives from our shores, Karabo Poppy Moletsane, Delmaine Donson and Sinomonde Ngwane, to illustrate what these shows mean to them. 

Through their creations, the local artists further highlighted the importance of being a Strong Black Lead – shedding light on the trials and tribulations of the strong, black South African female while at the same time highlighting the important work of the black creatives who brought us stories of inclusion and representation on Netflix. 

These brilliant South African illustrators – our very own pioneers, who are speaking truth to the status quo, were shot by the Concept 254 team (who also shot for Global Citizen), sharing thought-provoking insights about being a Strong Black Lead as well as the hardships that women in South Africa face.

“I am a Strong Black Lead”

During the experience, Delmaine said: “Strong Black Lead, to me, means someone who can inspire change, someone who is strong enough to take the first step to create change and someone who is able to influence the minds of others while giving them a different perspective”.

Karabo said: “It means being able to pioneer and make things that are seen as unconventional the new normal.” She added that for her the term means “to achieve excellence, despite the push back and obstacles we as black people may encounter”.

Sinomonde said: “A Strong Black Lead is someone who is not afraid to challenge the status quo, someone who is strong, takes control of their life and is a great leader in their field.”

The creatives explained how the shows they illustrated for resonated with them, with Delmaine saying that Nola Darling, of She’s Gotta Have It, is her own person who is bold, who makes her own rules and doesn’t live under the laws of patriarchy. Delmaine thinks of herself in the same way.

Karabo, who illustrated for When They See Us, said that after 30 years we would think that progress made would be more substantial, however, she called out that we aren’t seeing a regression in progress, but rather a lack of moving forward. This resonated deeply with her in that she recognised that this lack of moving forward isn’t a third-world problem, but rather a global black problem.

Sinomonde said that Ruby, from Good Girls, resonated with her in that she entered a male-dominated industry and took on a role that is redefining, challenging and dominating, which inspired Sinomonde to have a little more Ruby in her.

Keen to watch the shows that inspired the creative process?

When They See Us is a four-part limited series from director Ava DuVernay that continues with themes from her documentary 13th. She explores the criminal justice system through the true story of the Central Park Five – five young teenagers who were wrongfully accused and convicted of rape.

Good Girls season two picks up from season one. In the first season, we saw Beth, Ruby and Annie facing personal and financial crises. So what do they do? They decide to team up and take back their lives… by robbing their local grocery store. In the second season, the women come face to face with the consequences of their criminal behaviour.

 She’s Gotta Have It is a seriously sexy comedy and rousing celebration of female empowerment, She’s Gotta Have It Season 2 offers a timely and topical portrait of rising talents, with free-spirited artist Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) at the centre. Struggling with newfound success this season, against a backdrop of black art and culture, Nola must decide if she will remain true to her creative ideals or give in to the corporate world. 

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