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‘African Folktales Reimagined’ Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained

Folklore is an integral part of our lives. Since childhood, our parents have been narrating various folklore either as bedtime stories or to simply scare us if we misbehaved. From scary monsters to fairy godmothers, from talking animals, dancing trees to shape-changing humans and cursed islands and whatnot, in all of its fantasy and weird mystery, folklore subtly injects values into us. The value of love, friendships, and obviously the values of our culture. Folklore is a very important part of oral tradition across the globe, for it includes myths, legends, traditions, and every other element that helps to strengthen the bonds among the people of a particular culture. As we grow up, we see how folklore impacts our minds. In most folklore, the ideal woman is defined as someone who is always subjugated to the immediate male figure—a father, a husband, a brother, a distant male relative, or the village head (obviously male). Women have been celebrated for their child rearing abilities but reprimanded for being sensual. They were discriminated against based on their skin color, features, and even their independence. Although in most narratives, women were mostly made of straw, and the male characters were the center of attention.

Standing in the twenty-first century, going back to those folktales, we understand it is time to rewrite them and recreate the narrative. Netflix and UNESCO’s newly formed partnership gave us exactly what we needed. An anthology of six African folktales presented in a new narrative to capture grief, pain, and love in a completely different way. The series “African Folktales Reimagined” is a powerful one, and here is everything you need to know about the first episode, “Katera of the Punishment Island,” by director Loukman Ali.

Spoilers Ahead

Breaking Stereotypes: Not All Women Are Helpless, And Not All Men Are Patriarchal

The story takes us to western Uganda, where there is a tiny island called Akampene, that means punishment in Rukiga. Much like its name suggests, the island served as punishment land for the surrounding villages. The island was reserved for young girls to be punished if they were found pregnant before marriage. They were dropped on the island, chained with heavy objects at their feet, and left to die. The girls would either starve to death or die during childbirth or if lucky enough to escape, they would drown trying to swim back. The first story of such a girl who escaped the island and also escaped death is Katera’s.

A man was catching fish in a large body of water when he heard the wailing of a woman lamenting about her child. The man quickly rowed his boat towards the island and found four young women tied to a tree. Three of them were heavily pregnant, while one was bleeding, which suggested that she lost her child. The man frees all of them and takes them to his boat. The woman who lost her child fell to the ground and began crying in pain. She refused to leave her baby there, and the man carried her to his boat and rowed away to a nearby mainland. He gives them a pouch of coins and asks them to go up the hill and, on the other side, find the farm of Mzee Amos. He assures them that in exchange for the money, Mzee Amos will safely escort them to Mbarara, where they will be safe. The girl who lost her child seemed to have no interest in following the other girls. The man tried to convince her to go, but she stood firm. As the man rows his boat and slowly moves forward, the girl decides to swim. She was unaware of the depth of the water and began to drown. The man hears the muffled voice and splashes of water and rescues her. He pulls her into his boat and snubs her for risking her life like that. He further says that her child is dead, and she cannot do anything to change that fact. Finally, the man felt pity for the girl and decided to take her to the mainland.

Who Has The Power: Education Or Violence?

Soon, a new life began for the girl who had lost her child. The man carries her deceased child and gives him a proper burial. As the duo was burying the child, a woman came out. She was the mother of the man who welcomed the girl in. It appeared that she was no stranger to the girl’s situation. The mother began treating the girl with herbal medicine, but as she began to salve the wounds on the girl’s feet, the girl moved away. It was as if the girl wanted to feel the pain, and in pain, she would remember the one who hurt her. The girl, in a flashback, saw a man wearing a military uniform, and the audience instantly knew that she was victimized by him.

The following morning, the girl came out of her hut to find out that she was in a settlement that mostly had women and children. As she began to help the man’s mother, she couldn’t stop noticing that the mother, too, had a similar wound around her feet. It becomes clear who these women and children were. They were all rescued from the island and given a second chance to live and rebuild their lives. She saw the man who saved her from the island teaching the young children of the village. Soon, the audience witnesses another side of the girl. She is a learned woman and sets up a school by making proper arrangements. She said that her mother, who was a translator for the British, taught her and her siblings to write and read.

Four months had passed since her rescue. One day, as she was returning with two young children from the village, she met with a man who identified her as Katera. This is the first time the audience finds her to be identified. The man was elated to find Katera alive and well. He asks her if she has any clue what’s going on with her family. Soon, we see Katera and the man enter the settlement, where Katera storms past her rescuer. She was all packed and ready to leave when her rescuer stooped over her. It was when we saw the fire inside Katera. She informs him that Gregory (the man she saw in the flashback) did not settle down after sending Katera off to the island; he had also killed her father and her sister. Now, it was her turn to avenge their deaths.

Katera’s rescuer was obviously worried about the new man who gave Katera the information. So he tries to warn Katera that the man from her village might be lying. Katera goes back to another hut to show her rescuer the hidden weapons and tells him that everyone lies and the difference is in the reason. She requests that he teach her how to use them, for if she doesn’t stop Gregory, he might kill Biraro (her lover). This particular scene is of utter significance. It says violence is not meaningful; education is. It says that violence might be the quickest solution, but education is the most powerful tool.

Raising Arms Against The Oppressor

Her rescuer soon teaches her knife and rifle play. Soon, she was ready, the man arranged for a man’s attire so that she could travel unnoticed. This is another significant symbol that points out how patriarchy belittles women. Had she traveled as a woman, she would have been persecuted even before she freed her lover. As they reached her village, they saw Gregory ready to hang her lover. She shot a bullet that loosened the rope and freed her lover. Gregory was caught off guard and outnumbered by the ambush. Although the initial plan was to escape with her lover, Katera decided to punish Gregory and take back her father’s land. Gregory knew Katera’s rescuer and addressed her as “one eye.” They both served in the Great War. As Katera points the rifle at Gregory and moves towards his chamber, the “one-eyed” man covers her.

However, Gregory set a trap for the duo and their team. He had a gun that was designed to kill a large number of men, and he began firing at them. The man who rescued Katera was wonderful with knives. Before sacrificing his life, he threw a knife at the bullet chain, stopping Gregory’s firing. At that moment, Katera regained all her strength and hit Gregory, knocking him unconscious.

Episode 1: Ending

The final scene is of immense significance. Before walking into Gregory’s chamber, there was an idol of a goddess with a bare bosom and a pregnant belly. Katera’s father, who had his first child in his fifties, believed that it was the goddess who helped him. Gregory was all tied up and was chained to the idol as Katera took him on the boat and rowed towards the middle of the water body. There, she narrated the significance of the idol for her family and told Gregory that the goddess was then responsible for delivering Gregory to Katera’s father. Saying so, she threw the idol down at the bottom of the water, and soon Gregory was pulled in as well.

The film is a brilliant portrayal of the power of women. A woman who can bring a life into the world can take one, too, in order to protect humanity. The powerful message coming from a Ugandan director tells us a lot about the lives of women there. Freedom from colonization did not ensure freedom from social dogmas. Unfortunately, women have always been at the receiving end of the narrowness of society. But, as we have reimagined folklore, here is our chance to bring equality and finally let good win over evil without any discrimination.


There is a lot of restriction on what a ‘perfect’ woman can do. Society, for ages, has tied down women and used them as a medium to satisfy their greed, either marital or physical. “Katera of the Punishment Island” portrays how a woman can muster skills to combat the evils in her life. She belonged to a family where the father had children for the first time in his fifties by worshipping a demigod. The demigod is the symbol of a pregnant woman. However, when her own daughter was pregnant out of wedlock, the father could not fight the social system. The social system would shame an unmarried pregnant woman, which suggests that a woman’s sensuality is only legitimate when she is a wife. Otherwise, she would be chained and abandoned on a faraway island. 

On the other hand, we meet characters like the ‘one-eyed man’ who consciously broke down all patriarchal negativity and treats women for who they are. There is a high chance that the man was of this distinguished character as his own mother was a victim of the highly toxic patriarchal society, However, in this story Katera remains the hero. Whatever support she got was not a miracle but something that every woman in society deserves. 


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