30 May 2011

Ethiopia: Big Brother Amplified

Nic and Felicia have been evicted from the Big Brother House. ( Resource: Big Brother Amplified - Who Got Played? )


Each of the two Ethiopian contestants participating in Big Brother Amplified has been nominated for eviction, but neither has been kicked out, four weeks into the 91 days it is meant to last. Despite the last man standing taking home 200,000 dollars, the mother of Hanni, one of the contestants, has mixed feelings about her daughter's participation in the show, writes MIREILLE DE VILLIERS, SPECIAL TO FORTUNE.

Watching Big Brother

The two Ethiopian contestants participating in Big Brother Amplified are hanging in there, despite each being nominated for eviction since the start of the show on May 1, 2011.

Every week, contestants in the reality TV programme are nominated for eviction by their fellow housemates and presented to the voting public who votes for the individual they wish to remain in the house. The aim of the contest is to avoid being evicted from the house, which depends on how a participant is perceived by the voters.

Up for grabs for the last person remaining in the house by the end of July 2011, out of the total 26 who started, is prize money of 200,000 dollars.

Ethiopian contestant Danny Kassa was nominated for eviction the first time it came up, on May 8, along with Confidence from Ghana, Vina from Nigeria, Weza from Angola, and Vimbai from Zimbabwe. However, it was Jossy from Namibia who was evicted from the Big Brother Amplified House, located in Johannesburg, South Africa.

On Sunday, May 22, Hanni Mekuria from Ethiopia was nominated for eviction, but removed from the list by the head of the house who can "save" any of the nominees from being presented to the public for voting.

As a result, Sharon from Uganda, Michael from Mozambique, Bernadina from Namibia, as well as Confidence and Vina (both for a second time) are up to be evicted this week on Monday, May 30.

This may be an indication of their popularity, or not. It may also have something to do with Ethiopia's increased voting capacity.

Since Monday, May 23, Big Brother viewers in Ethiopia were able to start voting for housemates by text message for the first time. Aside from being able to vote on the website www.bigbrotherafrica.com, where the goings-on in the house can also be followed, viewers can send a text message with the words "vote +" followed by the name of the contestant they are voting for to 835 for five Birr.

Ethiopia's two Big Brother contestants: Danny Kassa at the launching ceremony of Amplified, and Hanni Mekuria (bottom) shortly after entering the house for the first time.

Credoks Communications, the technology providers, receives a text message, bills it to Ethio-Telecom, sends it to DStv in South Africa in real-time, and replies to the sender, all in about seven in seconds, according to Abebaw Degefu, general manager of the company.

"We have the capacity to process up to 1,000 messages every second," he told Fortune. "We have only received 2,000 text messages by Thursday, May 26. The availability of the code is not very well advertised. I am not sure if people are aware of the facility to vote."

Last week, voters kicked out another contestant: Nkuli from South Africa. However, before her eviction, Lotus from Tanzania became the second contestant to be disqualified from the show on May 20, after she slapped Luclay from South Africa during a quarrel.

Last year, Hannington Kutesa from Uganda was disqualified for beating up Lerato from South Africa.

"The Big Brother House Rules state very clearly that: 'Any housemate who becomes physically violent will be removed from the house immediately,'" Big Brother announced two hours after the biggest fight of the season.

Lotus was asked to pack her bags immediately while Luclay was assigned the duty of cleaning the house and dishes for the remainder of his stay in the house. Luclay has been involved in another fight, with Karen from Nigeria, but that one he won when she burst into tears.

Luclay was duly nominated for eviction by the fun loving outgoing people in the Big Brother Amplified house alongside Kim and Mumba from Zambia before Nkuli got the boot.

As boring as it can be to watch the show which entails watching strangers sleep, hold inane conversations, or perform pointless activities, such moments of conflict certainly liven up the experience.

This is just as Misikir Mulugeta, marketing and communications manager for Multichoice Ethiopia, predicted at the opening ceremony of the show earlier this month.

"Once the housemates become used to the cameras, they will relax and then things become interesting," he had told Fortune.

Hanni's mother, Belynes Abate, watches the show on DStv's Channel 198 everyday.

She had initially told Fortune on the day of the launch of season six of Big Brother Africa that she was happy her daughter is participating.

However, she had wanted Hanni, a fifth year law student, to finish her studies first.

"I did not want her to participate, because she is in the final year of her law studies," Belynes told Fortune on Thursday. "She told me she wanted to have fun. I did not tell any of my friends or relatives or neighbours that she is participating."

She is worried about her youngest.

"I do not understand the language and have nobody to translate for me, but I hear the other women talking and repeatedly saying 'Hanna,'" she said. "They are gossiping about her and I worry about my daughter because I cannot contact her to advise her. I don't want her to get hurt when she finds out."

Just before entering the house, Hanni had told the audience at the launch that she was a happy person who liked to have fun.

In the house, she befriended Lomwe from Malawi. They quickly became the darlings of the Big Brother House, and were even affectionately known as Lohan. Yet, she reportedly ended it, saying she would not date him in the house based on her culture. Her mother approves of this attitude.

"As long as they live in the same house, it is all right if they talk," Belynes told Fortune. "I understand they are just friends. I am happy about that."

Belynes does not discuss the show with her friends. Aside from not telling anyone, they sometimes bring it up when they find out or see her daughter on TV.

"I just do not say anything," she said. "Since she is representing Ethiopia, I wish her luck."

Hanni had also told Lomwe that she was in the house to represent her country, but she was first there as an individual.

Danny, who was living in South Africa prior to joining the show, likewise said before entering the isolated house that he planned to have as much fun as possible during his stay.

"I plan to just be myself," Daniel said. "I do not have a strategy."



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