On March 29, 2018, Variety reported on the partnership between Sony Pictures Television and EbonyLife for the purpose of making three brand new series, one of which will be an action drama based on the 19 century Dahomey warriors, the female fighters who came together to protect the Kingdom of Dahomey. Now present-day Republic of Benin, these little-discussed warriors were the inspiration for Black Panther‘s Dora Milaje, and with the box office supremacy of Black Panther and its many milestones achieved, the story of these powerful women in history being made for television feels long overdue.
Yesterday, founder and Chief Executive Officer of EbonyLife TV Mo Abudu had a Skype interview with CNN’s Isha Sesay, the conversation revolving mostly around the Sony collaboration to develop the Dahomey warriors for television. I have never seen Abudu so enthused and driven, and it was certainly good to see the talk show host and media entrepreneur talk about telling African stories and bringing them to the screens. But much earlier in March, a Variety headline read “TriStar Acquires ‘The Woman King’ Starring Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o” and the announcement came with excitement on the internet, as the still-to-be-developed film recruits two of Hollywood’s beloved black stars.
Unlike the Sony-EbonyLife Dahomey story, the similar project from TriStar Pictures is more fleshed out in movie title and core cast. That said, get ready for a Dahomey overload. But seriously, and as much I sincerely applaud Mo Abudu for co-developing this TV project with Sony, I see the move as a knock-on effect from Black Panther. Abudu has an appetite for the grand and splashy; her two executive produced films The Wedding Party and its sequel reportedly were box office hits, and with the next installment likely to be on the way, it’s increasingly evident that Abudu’s studio-size ambitions are still unmatched.
Curiously, I wonder why Sony and EbonyLife chose first to serialise the Dahomey female warriors as TV content when Nigeria is a grapevine of rich epic stories. Sure, perhaps not as historically hefty as the Dahomey women, but nonetheless Nigeria would have been a good place to start. It will take some time to see which rendition, either from TriStar Pictures or the EbonyLife-Sony merger, grabs the attention of viewers. In her interview on CNN, Abudu did admit that, aside from telling this specific West African story to the world, there’s still more stories that abound, waiting to be told. And I hope she’s ready to tell them.