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MTV Shuga back for season five.

Pioneered in Nairobi, Kenya in 2009, MTV Shuga is a drama series and multimedia campaign that delves into the lives of young people on the African continent.

Five seasons in, the show has managed to touch on issues relating to HIV and safe sex, which include condom use, HIV testing, stigmatization, living with HIV, gender-based violence and transactional sex.

MTV Shuga recently won the Third Sector Award for Big Impact and the World Media Festival, Gold Award for Edu-tainment and the Intermedia-Globe Grand Award.

MTV Shuga Down South is the recently premiered season which has clearly surpassed their goals of bringing more grit and drama than the previous seasons.

It is from the beginning of the show that we had our very own Lupita Nyong'o star before her breakthrough into the Hollywood scene. She starred in the series as Ayira, a modern girl who knows what she wants and how to get it.

The first season, which was a three-part series, revolved around the lives of college students in Kenya's capital. Its main focus was on Ayira, as she developed passion with an older man at the expense of a longtime lover Ty. Virginia and Leo were two lovers who faced various obstacles in their relationships but were determined to make it work.

Years later, Lupita is now a global phenomenal after having won an Oscar for her outstanding work in 12 Years a Slave. She has also starred in The Queen of Katwe and currently shooting upcoming American superhero film Black Panther.

The second season of Shuga, dubbed Love, Sex and Money, premiered in 2012 with its storyline revolving around transactional sex, rape and homosexuality, including the issues raised in the first season like stigma, condom use, HIV testing and gender inequality. The season was shot and set in Kenya.

Shuga Naija was the title of the third season which was filmed in Nigeria. The season told the story of a group of friends living in the city of Lagos and how they dealt with the issues of love, sex and relationships. The cast mainly consisted of Nigerian actors.

The fourth season, which was premiered in 2015 was still set in Nigeria. It returned with a continuation of the previous season's storyline, only with some new faces in it.

The fifth and newest season, labelled Down South saw the show changing the shooting location to South Africa. It involves a multinational cast of actors from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Nigeria.

The show features Kenya's own Nick Mutuma, Tanzanian songbird Vanessa Mdee, Nigeria's Emmanuel Ikubese and Adesua Etom and South Africa's Thuso Mbedu, Muzi Mthembu.

The season has 12 complete episodes, which reflect the South African context.

Deputy Director for MTV Staying Alive Foundation Sarah Piot, expressed her emotions on her awe and disbelief on how far the show has come.

Speaking at the Season five premiere at Pawa 254 in Nairobi, Sara explained how the show has progressed over the years.

'We continue producing the show because it works. We have been able to raise awareness on all these issues and the most recent evaluation done by World Bank Nigeria shows that twice as many viewers went for testing after watching the show,' she says. 'Self-reflection from young people is very high after watching Shuga episodes. We add to this by having peer educators for the show to make sure that the messages are targeted. It's more than an entertainment show.'

Piot explained that after two seasons, the team took a decision to take the show to different parts of the continent to explore the different aspects of the story that MTV Shuga wanted to bring, as they campaigned and addressed real world issues in an engaging and persuasive way.

'MTV Shuga, which is based on a well-researched clip, started in Kenya with the aim of raising sex and HIV/AIDS awareness among the youth,' said Piot. 'It has since expanded to sexual health and family planning related issues. No one thought it would get this far from 2009.'

She also proudly talked of how much the show has a Kenyan angle and a loyal Kenyan fan base. She thinks Nick Mutuma has a role to play in the success as he has starred in all five episodes of the series.

Nick echoed Piot's points on the influence of the show to the young people around the continent saying, 'Shuga resonates with a lot of young people. Social media explains how much impact the show has on its viewers,' says Mutuma. 'I used to, and still do, get messages on Facebook and other platforms relating to HIV/AIDS and sex. The message is very strong at the end of the day. It influences young people, both from the urban and rural areas. It's amazing how well it works.'

On future plans for Shuga, Piot says; 'We are open to opportunities right now because our cast is from different countries of the continent.'

MTV Shuga is broadcasted on 179 channels around the world. Locally, it airs on DStv, KBC and GoTV. The show's episodes can also be found on their website and on YouTube as well.
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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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