African Superheroes through African Mythology: Rise of the Orishas

African mythology and ancient stories are dying. Stories that were used to provide moral teachings, spiritual identity and general entertainment within our culture. Due to the implicitly verbal nature of our stories, African writers penned some down and included short stories of their present times. Now that the paper is at war with technology, our stories are maneuvering into film and series.

UK Based African movie director, creative entrepreneur and screen writer Nosa Igbinedion created a “The Orisha Series” as means to preserve our culture using technological devices. The Orishas are the emissaries of Olodumare or God almighty in Yoruba culture. Noting the lack of African superheroes, Igbinedion artistically created a series of the emissaries as superheroes for us Africans. With a decade of experience in the film industry, and 6 years working professionally, Igbinedion shares his inspiration behind creating African superheroes from our own culture.

What inspired you to bring Nigerian mythology to film?  

The inspiration for Oya rise of the Orisha and the Orisha series as a whole was a combination of things.

On one level, I was tired making films to fit the narrow constraints that film gatekeepers deemed necessary. I said I want to go out and make what I want to make.

nosaTo be the artist you have to do what you truly enjoy. I was raised on African mythology and culture. I love superheroes.  I said why not put the two together and screw what ‘the industry’ thinks and thankfully I have been successful.

The biggest thing that made me do this though was in talking to a young boy who I teach film. In discussing the film he was going to make. I asked him about the story and discussed the characters. When asking who the hero was, he said he was young, handsome and ….white. I asked him why he made these decisions about his character, i.e. his age and race. He said the character had to be white because ‘no one is going to believe a black person saved the world’.

Essentially having black characters in common stories isn’t enough, but using OUR stories as well with our super heroes changes the tone in a young Africans mind.

Looking at the credibility of your content, how do you ensure the accuracy of the stories within the mythology?

Well I have various ways of collecting information. I have spoken to elders, I have consulted babalowos and Iyawos and people who are knowledgeable in Ifa. Also I have done surveys among Orisha devotees.

I am from Edo people of the Benin Kingdom. We derive our ancestry from the same place as Yoruba. So many of our stories and beliefs are the same. But Ifa, Candomble, Santreria are so deep that they relate to so many other things in life. I take in this information and let it sit in my head for some time. Then instinctively, creatively a story begins to form.

I am not doing a documentary. This series has to entertain. In the 21st century people don’t read books as much as watch content. So I want to entertain them and show them something really cool and then hopefully they will go away and take a deeper look. Maybe they will just say this has changed my perception but it will make a difference.

That’s an interesting approach, to keep in the story’s truth and preserving our culture through technological evolution.

We have a massive opportunity to do that now – preserving African culture in the digital age.

Do you believe that through using our mythology it also challenges the stereotype of all our stories being harnessed in evil?

Yup I think it does challenge that stereotype or at least makes people question it. The main goal for me as an artist and entrepreneur is to open people’s minds.The problem is too many are scared to do something outside the box.For me it’s exciting. It’s so cool to do some stuff that no one has done before. I only have one life so why not use it purposefully.

Very true and that is a very interesting outlook. Where are you looking into with distributing the series?

Well if you are familiar with the Orisha, you will know they are a pantheon of countless deities, complex philosophies and a broad range of ideas. So basing a work of art on this means that I am not working on one movie but a franchise.

So initially we had the short taster ‘Oya Rise of the Orisha’. That was released online for free last year and has done really well. Next month we will be releasing a longer series ‘Yemoja: Rise of the Orisha’ on video demand. This will expand the world a little bit more.

Finally the full length feature will be shot later this year to be released internationally. In terms of distribution methods specifically, I do this in 2 ways. Firstly we have screenings in cinemas, (we have screened in Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Europe, America etc.) So we plan to be available that way. Secondly I will be placing the content online for video on demand. I want to reach masses of people and the truth is that in some places in the world, cinemas are not there.

Any expansion of screening in Africa in the works?

Oya Rise of the Orisha has screened multiple times in Africa. The web series is in the last stages of post production. Once the visual effects are complete I will start talking to people re distribution. Also we are releasing a comic soon too! Even more people will learn about aspects of our culture through art

Hopefully the series can inspire even African film makers to create originally African stories that do more than entertain.

Watch Africa’s superhero movie below: