When I came across Queen Sono I originally thought it was a James Bond kind of film but with an African female lead? Or, like The Black Panther but make it make sense? As I continued to watch the series, I realised that it was so much more than these two initial thoughts.
The first African Netflix Original show ‘Queen Sono’ was created by a South African comedian and director Kagiso Lediga and is a beautiful tale of power, neo-colonialism and corruption told through the female gaze.
Queen, played by Pearl Thusi, is a highly-skilled spy working for a secret South African organisation and is a part of a small but intelligent team of comrades tackling corruption across Africa.
Imagine a person who woke up every morning and chose chaos, that would be Queen. She is a whirlwind of a character always going left when they tell her to go right, the true definition of that friend your mum tells you to stay away from when you were younger.
One of Queen’s missions finds her undercover at a conference led by two white women arguing about what is best for the future of Africa, an event that we have seen played out one too many times.
Even when death comes knocking at her door, Queen’s ability to act first and think later combined with her charm, wit, and sarcasm is arguably what keeps her alive.
What sets this show apart from other spy and action tv shows is that Queen is not a spy just for spying sake, it is in her blood to fight and protect her country.
Mazet, played by Abigail Kubeka, Queen’s grandmother, is as stubborn as Queen she refuses to drive with her glasses on and does not shy away from disrupting Queen’s undercover missions with phone calls asking her “when will you marry?”. Even as a spy you cannot escape these questions.
Queens mother Safiya Sono, was a freedom fighter and anti-apartheid revolutionary, and as important as this is to Queen’s legacy it is also a significant commentary on the history of South Africa.
Safiya was assassinated when Queen was a young girl and as the 25th anniversary of her death is fast approaching the action begins. The memories of this tragic event haunt Queen and it becomes a part of her life mission to find out why.
As much as the show is for entertainment the richness of its historical context is what takes the show away from the fictional bubble of Wakanda. It is a true and accurate celebration of Africa where English is intertwined with Afrikaans, IsiZulu, Xitsonga, Sotho, Shona, Lingala, Swahili, and many more languages.
Although it is a short series, ‘Queen Sono’ represents the possibility of African storytelling by Africans and the kind of TV that we can create on a global level, without compromising our culture. The show is a reminder of the fighting spirit of African women in history and in the present day.