THE SHONDRELLA ADVENTURES

By Tolu Ogunlesi

PLOT: An African-American woman living in Los Angeles (L.A) has a dream in which she finds herself in a desert, sitting astride a camel. When she awakes, she is no longer the person she was when we went to sleep. She is instead consumed by a desire to embark on a voyage of discovery into her past (Africa).

In what could forgivably have been mistaken as the fictional plot of a movie, The Shondrella Adventures is the very real tale of a dream that inspired African-American actress Shondrella Avery-Kester (‘Girls Behaving Badly’ (2002 – 2005), Napoleon Dynamite’ (2004), ‘Déjà Vu' (2006), ‘The Secret Life of Bees' (2008), ‘Our Family Wedding' (2009), ‘Gillian in Georgia’ (2010)) to embark on a journey of discovery. The Shondrella Adventures is a mockumentary series set in Nigeria, chronicling Shondrella’s real life experiences. The series is scheduled for a 2011 shoot.

A life in L.A.

The Shondrella Adventures start in L.A. Home to Shondrella’s family, friends – and fans. The pilot begins with a glimpse into the familiar Hollywood lifestyle of a famous actress: location shoots, meeting fans, evading paparazzi and hanging out with close friends (an evening out with Keisha Whitaker for example; or lunch with Shannon Elizabeth and Marques Houston). All of which Shondrella gives up for a 7,700 mile trip to the unknown.

Coming to Africa

The Shondrella Adventures is ‘Africa, on African soil, from Shondrella’s eyes’. Her July 2010 trip to Nigeria (which also happens to be where her husband is from), was her first visit to Africa.

    My ultimate plan is to go to the North, South, East and West. I want to travel all over the continent. I want to just see...” Shondrella says.

As an African-American, Shondrella believes her roots lie in the African continent. Her need to journey through Africa is inspired by a desire to ‘find’ herself.

    I could be the Queen of a Congo tribe or something; I could be heir to a royal family in Nigeria...” she told me when I met her in Lagos in July.

In truth, her mission goes well beyond discovering things for herself alone. She’s coming to Africa with America in mind.

    A lot of Americans have misconceptions of Africans and specifically, Nigerians. People don’t think you are civilised, and that annoys me. Nigerians are beyond civilized!”

Shondrella seeks to challenge the perception of what ‘Africa’ or an ‘African’ is. Tackling stereotypes that are abound in the media and popular culture, Shondrella the shaman – sha(wo)man? – stands in the misconception-ridden space between Africa and America, hoping to bridge the knowledge gap.

The Shondrella Adventures provides a glimpse into the comedy that unfolds as the hopeful Queen Shondrella and Nigeria meet each other in a variety of ways. The result is a series of honest, laugh-out-loud scenes where viewers get to witness how easy it is for different cultures to misunderstand one another.

Full of sassiness, and a humour intensified by Shondrella’s trademark deadpan delivery, we follow her through moments such as when she meets her match in Nigerian shopkeepers.

    “She doesn’t have any money, yet she wants to buy goods...” - the owner of “Sola’s African Market” can be overheard sneering in Yoruba (her husband’s native language) when a wary Shondrella wants to know how much a “made-in-Switzerland” lace fabric is.

    Shondrella is a fascinating woman and just as she left an impression on me, and the shopkeeper, The Shondrella Adventures is certain to stay with you long after seeing its.

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