In “Mama Rocks Talks African Burgers and Business,” an episode in the ṢOJU series by Oluwaseun Babalola, two sisters, Samantha and Natalie, co-founders of Mama Rocks Burgers, discuss challenging gender roles, the training of their food truck staff to recognize and champion gender equality, the importance of seeking out indigenous suppliers, and how they can support young business women. They explore all of this, as well as their future of expanding beyond food trucks to a flagship location and what their overall legacy obligations may be, in just under a distilled five minutes of screen time.
In an earlier episode a woman notes that, “It’s definitely all about furthering us as Africans. If other people beyond Africa want to pay attention, good for them, because they can learn a thing or two.” The candor of this statement is like a clarion call for me. For sure, part of my interest going into this series has been a familiarity with Babalola and her work on a previous project. That said, I watch “Mama Rocks” and immediately I find myself encouraged to listen to these women and their perspectives, these sisters on this other continent, as they pursue their livelihood and try to make a difference in their community and in the lives of other women around them. I see so many women in my own life, in my own community, doing the same and I know from that experience that we are all the better for it.
The ṢOJU episodes both demand and reward close attention. Given the short-form nature of the medium, it is a testament to Babalola’s skill, curiosity and care that she can gain the necessary trust and cover so much material in such a brief amount of time. When she has been asked about ṢOJU she has noted, “I say it’s a documentary series that showcases diverse youth culture in Africa. That’s true, but the goals for it are so much more.” I find the series to be a gift for us all and “crucial,” at the very least.