This time last week, South Africa’s version of popular reality TV franchise Love Island premiered. Significantly, Love Island South Africa is the franchise’s first penetration into the African market and made possible by M-NET, South Africa’s premier cable company. And while it produced some buzz, especially during its open call for contestants, what we all witnessed last Sunday as Islanders were unveiled undercut the show’s goodwill and novelty in this part of the world.
With a predominantly white cast, including the host (actress Leandie du Randt), Love Island South Africa faced backlash from different quarters. South Africans decried the absence of Black people, the Black diaspora chimed in with scathing comments, and memes generated to process this whitewashing of a show supposedly produced in Africa.
Although M-NET apologised for failing to show diversity in the selection, this erasure won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Out of the ten initial hopefuls, only two are Black – Thimna and Durang. The others: Erin, Asad, Summer, Asad, Ian, Jay, Kaige, Millie, Rochelle. If not white, then white-adjacent.
In typical Love Island fashion, the contestants are hot and ostensibly single, all living together in the luxurious Villa in search for love and also a chance to win one million rand. For six weeks, they will go on dates, perform tasks and challenges and make themselves likeable to viewers, to avoid being evicted from the Villa.
The premiere episode showed some promising coupling and decoupling as Islanders entered that familiar talking phase with each other. There was also production issues with audio, whereby whole conversations go muted
22-year-old Durang, a personal trainer, is perhaps the most drawn to fitness, never missing a day to flex his muscles with dumb bells. Erin and Assad seemed they were getting along on Tuesday. Assad can be identified with a scar slightly running through his right upper face. Erin, whose love language is physical touch, mildly complained in her diary session that she wasn’t getting any of that from Assad. Erin wants them to get more affectionate while Asad wants thing slow.
On Tuesday also, the show teased two new Islanders Sarah and Xavier, followed by Chris and Libho. Of course, they were introduced the upset the fragile dynamic in the Villa. Libho appears to be quite a catch, calm and confident and swole. Talking casually to the other female contestants, Rochelle revealed that she wasn’t into the blonde, blue-eyed men and didn’t hide her interest in Libho. At least, we have gotten another Black Islander.
Through the week, contestants had fun with games like Truth or Dare and The Hole Package, where the boys put their backs behind a wall and the girls feeling their bodies through holes, all the while not knowing who their hands are on. In the first recoupling ceremony, tensions were high as Summer chose Kaige, Millie went for Jay, Sarah picked Asad (surprise), Rochelle chose Durang, Thimna coupled with Xavier, with Ian and Erin as a couple.
Viewers get an opportunity to vote for their favourite Islander, inching them closer to the prize money and possibly some time to find love. The show did start on a very wrong footing but, nonetheless, the coming weeks should keeps viewers glued.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.