If you have read any part of the Dawn of the Patriot, one question that will continue to haunt you and never leave you is, What would drive any person to create this story, write it and go all the way to publish it? Well, wonder no more because we couldn’t take it anymore so we walked up to him and asked him.
Read his words for yourself below.
The concept of a hero character in Africa came to me in 2011 during a casual conversation with close friends in Toronto. After a couple of games of pick-up basketball, we decided to stop for some Asian cuisine. We were quite exhausted but decided to catch up like we usually did on weekends. We randomly began talking about the slew of superhero franchise movies that were being released at the time. We talked about Captain America, the Dark Knight, Spiderman and Superman movies with mixed reviews but mostly with endorsement. Considering we grew up watching these characters as kids and idolized them, we were excited to see them on the big screen.
Without much thought I asked what an authentic superhero in Africa would be like. What came next was quite telling. We all suddenly paused and gave each other a genuine look of discontent then burst out laughing. It felt like I had just asked a formidable rhetorical question. A hero from Africa did not deserve to share a conversation in which Batman was being discussed.
What would be his unique talent anyway? Throwing oranges? I suppose the idea of a remarkable hero character in Africa, especially in Nigeria just seemed too far-fetched given the scarring history and present-day dark realities on the continent. Is it the fact that over 70 percent of the world’s poorest countries belong to Africa alone or the constant reminder in every health education class that Africa is riddled with high rates of preventable disease or the corruption, violence, crime and a glaring attitude of dishonesty permeating every level of society? When you think about Africa, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? One usually does not conceive the image of heroes, masterminds, and extraordinary people. Joke after joke and I found myself slowly retreating into my own thoughts. I felt deeply unsettled in my being. I could appreciate the use of comedic relief to make light of the topic but this was our home we were laughing about. It wasn’t so much that there wasn’t any truth to the jokes; on the contrary, I felt uneasy because the jokes, however condescending, were true. We grew up in Nigeria and we had first-hand evidence to prove it. The only problem with the single story is that it is true in the 21st century. The quality of the vast majority of stories and productions from the continent simply cannot compete with the standards of the rest of the world – not even close on way too many levels ranging from artistry to overall philosophy on life.
As I wallowed in a pool of my thoughts, laughing on the outside but fully engaged and somewhat hurting within, it became even more apparent to me that Africa doesn’t have to be the way it is today. I realized that for the future of Africa to reveal its tamed glory, Africa will need heroes – both fictional and real – men and women who embody what it takes to rise above desolation. So, I began to address the question seriously: What would a real hero in Africa be like today? Unfortunately, there is a dearth of real people in African history and present day to reference. I also knew for a fact that the Bruce Wayne persona definitely wouldn’t fit the profile. I knew right away that this would have to be an original production. More importantly it would have to be a story anyone around the world, especially people of African descent, would be proud to call our own – something inspiring – something that will leave the audience hopeful – with a renewed sense of spirit and drive – with the zeal to not just survive through adversity but to deliberately overcome it even when all hope seems lost. This was not just about creating a character; it was about the future of Africa. However daunting, the choice was clear: I could either wait for the remote chance that someone else in the world would decide to create something I would be proud of or I could do it myself and bring my vision to life. It was almost instinctive. I took a leap of faith and in that moment, I declared to my friends I was going to do it. Naturally they thought I was crazy to even consider the prospect. In retrospect, perhaps they were right.
So you see, Okimi Peters did not set out to just tell a story like every other person. He created Dawn of the Patriot because he wanted to correct a one-sided perception, he wanted to inspire hope of boundless possibilities in Africans. Most importantly, he wanted Dawn of the Patriot to be a clarion call for every one of us to be the patriot we wish our country had. His characters might be fictional, but he uses them to ask us to query our real lives, probing us to look within and examine our regular contributions to our immediate societies that have super hero impacts.
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