Keeping its promise to release more African content, Netflix ’s South African series, Jiva , is finally set to debut on the streaming platform. South African culture and society take center stage in Netflix’s ‘Jiva’, a drama series centered on aspiring street dancer Ntombi. Juggling between family obligations, a dead-end job, and a less-than-ideal love life, she realizes that her talents may be her way out of Durban. Ntombi cobbles together her dance crew, The Trollies, with her sights set on winning a lucrative cash prize at the Jiva Loxion dance competition. Of course, there are obstacles and conflicts on the path to success.
Netflix’s ‘Jiva’ might be a derivative of Jaiva or township jive, an African dance form and music subgenre believed to have influenced Western breakdancing. It is closely associated with the development of the rhythmical Zulu music style of Southern Africa, mbaqanga. But it is also affiliated with contemporary trends due to the homogenization of the artform in the US and the UK that makes the dance style seem watered-down and less traditional. Whatever its origin, Jiva speaks to the broad appeal of dance not just in South Africa but globally.
“It will resonate with people because dance is just so much a part of our lives in South Africa and it resonates all over the world,” said showrunner Busisiwe Ntintili in an interview. “We dance at funerals and weddings. We dance when we graduate. At good and bad times, we dance. It is a joyful reminder, especially in these times where we didn’t expect this to happen; it’s a reminder that there is still joy to be had in life.”
The story is a work of fiction but is rooted in real-world issues. The Netflix original is a glimpse into modern African youth culture and but also addresses the challenges and resistance that women worldwide face in pursuit of their ambitions. At its core, this is a story of humanity that many can identify with irrespective of nationality. Ntintili hopes that this common thread will pique interest in more programming from the continent.
“Global audiences are hungry for African content. For a long time, they never saw it. Before we had streaming platforms, you only got to see what was broadcast in your country. People in America and Asia never saw any African content. There is a hunger for seeing how people in the rest of the world live.”
All five episodes of Jiva are streaming now on Netflix.