Can C-Dramas Find an Audience in Africa?

Audiences on the continent have more ways to explore Chinese dramas than ever before.

It’s not news that China has a strong presence in Africa. From major infrastructure projects to petty commodities, its influence is hard to miss. More recently, however, China has drawn Africans’ attention with something other than bridges or metal mines: its dramas.

Take “The Untamed,” for example. An adaptation of a fantasy web novel about two male soul mates in search of a dark secret, the series became a hit on the back of its large global following on English-language fiction platforms like Wattpad. Africa was no exception to its charm: “The Untamed” boosted an already growing audience of C-drama enthusiasts on the continent, as social media users in countries like Kenya suddenly started talking about C-dramas as distinct from the more established K-dramas and Japanese anime.

“The production of fantasy C-dramas is sophisticated and beautiful,” said Martha Kajwang, a 24-year-old Kenyan student and fan of “The Untamed.” “Themes that are not usually explored in Western productions, such as honor, love, and inner pain are found in C-dramas.”

Besides the usual fantasy epics and martial-arts dramas, African audiences have been charmed by the sweetness and humor of Chinese family dramas and urban romances, with family dramas resonating particularly well. Rebecca Gichuki, a 29-year-old C-drama enthusiast living in Kenya, speculated that the genre’s popularity is mainly due to shared values between the two societies. “There is the filial piety aspect; respect for parents in simple terms,” she noted. “I think my favorite one is ‘Perfect and Casual.’ It shows the awkwardness and simplicity of romance, and I get a few laughs along the way. It’s pretty wholesome.”

This emphasis on the family and traditional values is a break from the U.S. blockbusters that have dominated African TV screens for decades. “Specifically, (it’s) the respect of elders and how we talk,” said Cynthia Mwenda, a 25-year-old who has been watching C-dramas since 2019. “Not a lot of cussing involved, which is really nice, unlike in Hollywood. Though for us, we don’t go as far as kneeling and bowing.”

Gichuki got into C-dramas when a friend at university introduced them to her. “It started with K-dramas actually. From there, I sort of branched out but didn’t really get into C-dramas until a couple of years ago. The first one I watched was on Netflix, and even though it was 70-plus episodes, as opposed to the 16 in K-dramas, I was hooked.” She found that she enjoyed C-dramas’ famously long episode runs. “With C-dramas, I get a satisfactory ending,” she noted. “I can guess what to expect and I get it too, but I feel like there is also a lot of room for the unexpected.” Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.