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‘Blood Sisters’ is a nuanced and modern African drama for a global audience

Ini Dima Okojie as Sarah with Nancy Isime as Kemi on Blood Sisters.

Ini Dima Okojie as Sarah with Nancy Isime as Kemi on Blood Sisters.

Published May 28, 2022

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There's a quiet regality whenever Kate Henshaw is on screen. No matter the character, you can't help but just want to bow in her presence. Now imagine seeing her in person? She commands respect.

That was my feeling when I met the Nigerian actress in March at Netflix's “The Bridgerton” Affair event in Johannesburg. It felt like she was gliding in her Lady Danbury co-splay outfit.

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I then bumped into her the next morning during breakfast with Nse Ikpe-Etim. Once again, I was spellbound.

It then makes sense that she was cast as the matriarch in Nigeria's first Netflix original drama, “Blood Sisters”. The mini-series, produced by Mo Abudu's EbonyLife, is a dark drama about the endemic nature of domestic violence in our society and how many people suffer in silence for fear of not being believed.

It does not shy away from the role that families play in allowing domestic violence to continue by covering up the perpetrator's actions and forcing the victims to keep quiet. It's a reality that is so common for many people around the globe.

Blood Sisters is a nuanced and modern African drama for a global audience. Kate Henshaw in a scene from the series.

It is also nuanced storytelling, showing how complex the issue of gender based violence is, even with the glossy background of a wealthy family and their scions who do despicable things and are able to get away with it because of the power they wield.

It shows the power that parents have over their children and the lengths they go to cover up their crimes and misdeeds.

Sarah (Ini Dima Okojie) must have thought her dreams were coming true when she met Kola Ademola (Deyemi Okanlawon) from the powerful Ademola family.

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Now engaged to be married and her family from an impoverished village about to reap the spoils of being linked to the Ademolas, things are supposed to be great. But they are not.

The series begins at the pre-wedding celebration of Sarah and Kola. It's the wedding rehearsal dinner, and everyone is decked out in their finest Nigerian garments. Instead of Kola being impressed with his fiancé, he looks disapprovingly at her dress and questions her choice.

She is clearly terrified of him, and when he mutters under his breath that she must change the dress, you can immediately tell that not all is well with their relationship.

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She changes the dress but is unhappy about it. She makes excuses to her friend Kemi (Nancy Isime) about why she changed her dress. She doesn’t buy it.

When Henshaw's Uduak Ademola is introduced, she is holding court at the venue, with her henchman close by. She surveys the room, haughtily looking at their guests with displeasure. When her eldest son brings her grandchild to greet her, she coldly remarks: "The bottom button is undone.“

But then, seconds later, her face lights up as she sees her second-born son and heir to the Ademola empire, Kola, coming to greet her. She flashes a smile so wide, it's almost like she's a whole new person.

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The brother, his wife and their son skulk away, dismissed by Uduak's glance. That ice-cold glance is prevalent throughout the series.

We see that coldness again when Uduak goes to Sarah and warns her to not embarrass her after Sarah's ex-lover, Kenny, tries to appeal to Sarah to not marry Kola. A terrified Sarah apologises before she is dismissed with a glance, and she scurries off to see her fiancée, who responds by assaulting her.

When Sarah tries to call off the wedding, her mother chides her. "It was only a slap!" Once again, showing us how society has always defended domestic violence by acting like it’s not a big deal.

The big day becomes a bigger nightmare. As Sarah tries to call off the wedding, Kola flies into a rage, and when Kemi discovers Kola beating Sarah up, she accidentally kills him while trying to defend her friend. All while the guests are waiting downstairs for the wedding to begin.

And so begins the four-episode roller-coaster that literally had me (and many other viewers) on the edge of my seat.

“Blood Sisters” is inspired by a global story, but it’s told in a quintessential Nigerian way. The show nods to Nollywood films while also presenting a polished “Thelma & Louise” inspired take.

As Sarah and Kemi become fugitives, being searched for by the corrupt police (who have been paid for by the Ademolas) and also the henchman, it goes from being a drama to a thriller.

Their journey takes them to Makoko, a floating informal settlement in Lagos, trouble with an organ harvester and dealing with the repercussions of their actions. And bodies start piling up.

“Blood Sisters” goes on to explore the choices made by people protecting those they love, even if they are doing atrocious things. But it also reminds us that there are those who are always looking to tell the truth, even if they are outliers in a society hellbent on being corrupt.

It’s not always an easy watch, but Henshaw’s brilliant turn as the villainous Uduak and the star-making performances by Okojie and Isime will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

“Blood Sisters” is streaming on Netflix.

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