African Gods in American Pop Culture

African Gods in American Pop Culture

Day 27: 29 Days of Blackness

When you think about gods in the world of pop culture who do you think of? I’ll give you five minutes. Come back when you’re done. Please come back I really have a point to make. 

Let me guess on your list were some of the following: 

Zeus, Hercules, Odin, Thor, Medusa, Poseidon, Hera, Hades, Persephone, Lucifer, Gilgamesh, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ra, Osiris, Anubis, Horus, Freya, Loki, Buddha, Shiva, maybe even Quetzalcoatl, Chac, Raven, Coyote, Manitou, Monkey, Baron Samedi, Erzulie, The Ao, Rainbow Snake, Erlik, Rongo, Oro, Olifat, Wulbari, Anansi? 

Ok, so where did I lose you? How many of these names are familiar and how many left you scratching your head?  Did you stumble on Quetzalcoatl or maybe it was Manitou or Wulbari? Often in the West we are taught about the first 23 gods so much so that we can recite family lineage but the others not so much.   

For the past two and half years this has changed considerably thanks to the Starz TV show American Gods

The first African God we meet (only to later learn his true identity) is and I’m going to say it is revolutionary is Thoth portrayed by Demore Barnes. In his human form he is known as Mr. Ibis. He acts as our story teller. With a dip of the pen into a sea of black ink he writes the Coming to America story and that is the start of the very first episode. It is he, who one of the more elder gods that tells the story for the vikings. 

Demore Barnes’ Social Media:

Within this same episode we are introduced to yet another African God, Bilquis alternatively known as the Queen of Sheba. She may indeed have one of the best intro stories I have ever seen. Also tiny note, if you haven’t seen it don’t watch with young children unless you want to answer some serious questions about the galaxy between her thighs. 

Bilquis is played by Yetide Badaki who is definitely one of my celebrity crushes. 

Yetide Badaki Social Media: 

I will come back and talk about the impact of each of these gods in future posts but for now I want to discuss another. 

The African god that arguably stands out and is the most memorable is Anansi, played so beautifully and skillfully by Orlando Jones. I do not have the extensive vocabulary to describe just how perfect of a character he plays. You know how people say someone was created for a role and you so truly believe it that is this portrayal. 

In the Second episode we are treated to his Coming to America story and it should be noted that Mr. Ibis does not narrate. Actually the opening is not in English, Anansi’s story doesn’t need it. 

 It’s in Igbo, a language of the Igbo people of Nigeria. How’s that for an American tale! 

If you have not seen it please take a look. 

Mr. Nancy as he would come to be called becomes the God most concerned it about the plight of blacks in America. The speeches he gives never shies away from the negative. It shines the light on how things are and he asks of the other African contingency how can let this be. Why are they not more up in arms? Why have they abandoned their people?   For a show of fiction a lot of reality is brought in that forces you to look at this world. 

Unfortunately, for the third season Mr. Jones will be returning due to being fired. When you have the chance, go to his social media and listen to him explain why he was fired.

What is your favorite scene of Anansi? Is there anything I may have forgotten?  What other gods would you like to see portrayed?