Gareth Edwards: The Creator director on shaking up Hollywood’s visual effects

Gareth Edwards

By Emma Saunders

Entertainment reporter

Hollywood director Gareth Edwards has always done things differently. Now his latest film has all the tech heads in Tinseltown talking.

Best known for blockbusters such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Godzilla (2014), and now rumoured to be helming the next Jurassic Park movie, his sci-fi action film The Creator is in the running for best special effects and best sound at the Oscars next month.

The film sees John David Washington play Joshua, an ex-special forces agent, as a future war rages between humans and artificial intelligence (AI). The movie also stars Gemma Chan and Alison Janney.

Speaking to BBC Click’s Spencer Kelly, Edwards says: “I used to jokingly refer to the style of the film [as] if Terrence Malik had sex with James Cameron and had a baby… that was the ultimate high benchmark of what this film was trying to do!”

Its impressive visuals – check out that huge military spaceship called The Nomad – have been widely praised, especially given the film had a budget of around $80m (£63m), a third of what a special effects-heavy movie like this would usually cost.


The Creator film set
Image caption,The Creator was released in the UK in September and is Oscar-nominated for best sound and best visual effects

Working with pioneering studio Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), which was founded in 1975 in order to create the visual effects for Star Wars, British-born Edwards took inspiration from his first film Monsters (2010), an indy made on a tiny budget with a small team.

Most big films meticulously plan and build elaborate sets before shooting the majority of their special effects against a blue/green screen, which is hugely expensive.

But Edwards switched things up, shooting on location in countries including Cambodia and Thailand, then adding the special effects later.

Referencing Monsters, which had a crew of just six and also shot on location, Edwards says: “[I was] trying to get back to the positives of doing a guerrilla film.

“It’s a way more efficient, exciting and interesting process. If you go to a location that’s like the place in the scene and… if the crew is small enough, it’s cheaper to fly anywhere in the world than it is to build a set.

“Whatever was the best place in the world we could find for that scene, we would go and shoot it there, knowing that in the computer afterwards, we can change things.

The Creator on location in Asia
Image caption,Locations included Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan

“And [it] already looks good before you hand it over to the visual effects company.”

Working that way has been made easier with recent advances in technology, Edwards explains.

“We tried to keep everything small and what allowed for that, which couldn’t have happened five years ago, was that the camera technology had become really good.”

A Sony FX3 camera was the tool of choice: “It’s very cheap and small, I could just move with the camera. It was a massive, liberating thing.”

Andrew Roberts
Image caption,Andrew Roberts also worked on another Oscar-nominated film, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon

The careful choice of locations also helped keep the budget down.

“It looks bigger than your average film because every location is an Instagram destination,” Edwards tells Kelly.

A significant chunk of The Creator was filmed in Thailand because “money goes a lot further there”.

But creating a film in this way requires a lot of trust on behalf of the visual effects company, who come in at the tail-end of the project.

Edwards explains that he showed the early stages of the scenes to ILM so any misunderstandings could be ironed out quickly.

Gemma Chan
Image caption,British actress plays Maya in The Creator, who aligns herself with the robots having been rescued and raised by them when she was little

Shooting on location was also an advantage for the cast.

Londoner Andrew Roberts was the on-set special effects supervisor for the film.

“It’s great to have something real for the visual effects artists to build on top of, and also for the actors to be in a space where there is something real that can inform their emotion and their performances, rather than being surrounded by blue or green [screen] and being told to imagine.”

The film has received much praise for its special effects, although some critics have not been quite as impressed with the storytelling itself.

The Guardian’s Wendy Ide awarded it four stars, writing: “British director Gareth Edwards finally gets to make the sci-fi spectacular he was always destined to tackle.

“And with this ambitious, ideas-driven, expectation-subverting, man-versus-machines showdown, he has co-written and directed one of the finest original science fiction films of recent years.”

But the Evening Standard’s Hannah Strong had reservations, awarding it just two stars: “It’s a handsome film and demonstrates the filmmakers’ vivid imagination, but this doesn’t quite extend to the story itself, or its dialogue which often veers into cheesy territory.”

Gareth Edwards
Image caption,Edwards had fun with fans at the world premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in LA back in 2016

For Edwards, the film posed a different challenge to the likes of Rogue One, his last movie which came out eight years ago.

Reports claimed that Lucasfilm left Edwards out in the cold towards the end of the project, bringing in Tony Gilroy to write new dialogue and shoot extra scenes.

Edwards has disputed this, however, telling KRCW’s The Business podcast that when Gilroy was brought in, they both worked together until the very end of the movie.

“Having done these massive franchises, there’s pros and cons,” Edwards tells BBC Click.

“The cons are you have this giant fanbase and all this pressure and you cannot fail; it had better be a massive hit because there’s so many people waiting to see it.

“When you do an original science fiction [film], you’ve got the opposite problem – no-one’s heard of it, no-one cares, you’ve got to educate the world about what it’s about… why they should go and see it.

“It’s a double-edged sword. [You’re] trying to do something new but if it’s too out there… I just made this stuff up in my head and everyone is helping me create it but what if I’m wrong and it doesn’t work?”

‘Proud parent’

Perhaps surprisingly given his pedigree, Edwards, who hails from Nuneaton, is his own worst critic.

“I always think I’m not pushing things enough, I always think I’ve conformed and sold out… I always look at my heroes and beat myself up. My heroes growing up were Spielberg, Lucas, James Cameron.

“We could go a lot further and do something more unique…” he trails off.

“[But] the day you get through a film, and everything about it was easy and fun and enjoyable, is the day you made your worst movie and you should probably retire.”

And on The Creator’s Oscar chances?

He modestly points out that he’s not personally nominated as the recognition is for the visual effects team (Roberts, Jay Cooper, Ian Comley and Neil Corbould) and the sound crew.

“As a proud parent of the film, it’s a nice end to the journey,” he concedes.

Roberts adds: “I was born and grew up in the UK, my parents are from the Caribbean, a working class family and… to be at this point of being an Oscar nominee and potentially getting to win… I never could have dreamed this.”

Cotton candy: Pink sugary sweet sets off alarm bells in India

An Indian vendor carries cotton candy for sale at India Gate in New Delhi on October 28, 2014
Image caption,Cotton candy is sold at many Indian beaches and parks

By Cherylann Mollan

BBC News, Mumbai

Can cotton candy give you cancer?

Some Indian states think so and have banned the sale of the pink, wispy, sugary-sweet treat.

Last week, the southern state of Tamil Nadu implemented the ban after lab tests confirmed the presence of a cancer-causing substance, Rhodamine-B, in samples sent for testing.

Earlier this month, the union territory of Puducherry banned the sweet treat while other states have begun testing samples of it.

Cotton candy, also called buddi-ka-baal (old woman’s hair) in India because of its appearance, is popular with children the world over.


It’s a fixture in amusement parks, fairs and other places of entertainment frequented by children, who like it because of its sticky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

But some Indian officials say that the candy is more sinister than it seems.

P Satheesh Kumar, food safety officer in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu, told The Indian Express newspaper that the contaminants in cotton candy “could lead to cancer and affect all organs of the body”.

His team raided candy sellers at a beach in the city last week. Mr Kumar said the sweet sold in the city was made by independent sellers and not registered factories.

A few days later, the government announced a ban on its sale after lab tests detected the presence of Rhodamine-B, a chemical compound, in the samples. The chemical imparts a fluorescent pink hue and is used to dye textiles, cosmetics and inks.

Studies have shown that the chemical can increase the risk of cancer and Europe and California have made its use as a food dye illegal.

While banning cotton candy in Tamil Nadu, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said in a statement that using Rhodamine-B in the “packaging, import, sale of food or serving food containing it at weddings and other public events would be punishable under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006”.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has also reportedly started testing samples of the candy to check for the presence of the carcinogen.

And earlier this week, the New India Express newspaper reported that food safety officials in Delhi too were pushing for a ban on cotton candy.

Stray Kids: How K-Pop took over the global charts in 2023

Stray Kids attends SBS Music Awards at Inspire Arena in Jung-gu on December 25 , 2023 in Incheon, South Korea
Image caption,Eight-piece K-pop group Stray Kids will headline the BST Festival in London’s Hyde Park this summer

By Mark Savage

BBC Music Correspondent

Inevitably enough, Taylor Swift was the biggest-selling artist in the world last year – but new figures from the recording industry suggest that Western artists have lost their grip on the charts.

Four of the top 10 best-sellers came from South Korea, with bands such as Stray Kids and Seventeen outselling stars including Drake and The Weeknd.

Although none of the bands have broken the UK Top 40, they are responsible for millions of streams globally, as K-Pop continues its phenomenal growth.

In the 12 years since Psy’s Gangnam Style became an international hit, K-pop has continually expanded its reach – making impressive inroads in America’s typically impenetrable music industry.

The charge was led by boyband phenomenon BTS, whose high-concept anthems (with references to Carl Jung and Herman Hesse) found them topping the charts worldwide, even before their swerve into English-language pop on hits like Butter and Dynamite.


In 2019, they became the first K-Pop band to headline Wembley Stadium. Within two years, they were performing at the Grammys and collaborating with Coldplay.

Their female counterparts, Blackpink, have achieved similar levels of success – last year headlining both the Coachella festival in California, and London’s BST Hyde Park.

Their success can be chalked up cutting-edge pop-rap concoctions like Whistle, Ddu-du Ddu-du and Shut Down, that latter of which memorably samples Paganini’s second violin concerto.

But neither band featured in last year’s best-seller list: BTS are on hiatus while its members complete South Korea’s compulsory military service; while Blackpink spent the latter half of 2023 renegotiating their contracts with YG Entertainment – the media conglomerate that put the band together in 2016.

Image caption,BTS exemplify the high production values and intricate choreography of modern K-Pop

Entertainment companies like YG and Big Hit, which represents BTS, are a big driver of K-Pop’s success, putting their acts through gruelling auditions and years of training before they’re revealed to the public.

“If you were on an Olympic team you would have to be trained and we see no difference,” Chris Lee, head of SM Entertainment told The Guardian in 2022.

“If they want to be the best in the world, it takes a lot of work. They get media training. They study languages so that they can communicate with many different audiences. We teach them how to have good personalities.”

Last year, Blackpink singer Rosé told James Corden how arduous the training process could be.

“We wake up at like 9 to get ready, then we go at 11am and we practice all through 2am – we all come home at 2am, even on weekends,” the 26-year-old said of the six-year process, during which the then-teenagers were separated from their families.

“We weren’t really looking back to our homes or anything. We were just like, let’s survive this.”

But the success of K-Pop is down to more than military-grade pop bootcamps.

Stylistic detours

Stray Kids, in particular, have won an ardent fanbase for their dark and experimental albums, which fuse elements of hip-hop, dubstep, heavy metal, electro-clash and jittery dance pop.

The eight piece – Felix, Changbin, Lee Know, Han, Seungmin, I.N, Bang Chan and Hyunjin – are unusual in that they write most of their own material. And they take pride in the fact that their songs often take major stylistic and temporal detours.

“The goal is to continuously pioneer new [musical] subjects and to have our music be recognized as a ‘Stray Kids’ genre,” Changbin told Time Magazine., as it named the band one of its “Next Generation Leaders” last year.

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The group scored two US number one albums in 2023, and ended the year as the third biggest-selling act on the planet, according to the IFPI, which represents the global music industry.

One place above them (and one below Swift) came the boyband Seventeen – which boasts a whopping 13 members, all of whom are also involved in the writing and production process.

When the group released their 11th EP, Seventeenth Heaven, last year it attracted 5.2 million pre-orders, making it the most pre-ordered K-pop album in history.

Other big sellers last year included Tomorrow X Together, a boyband put together by the team behind BTS; and NewJeans, a group of teenage girls, who fuse the old-skool R&B sounds of TLC with playful, hooky melodies.

Image caption,NewJeans are one of South Korea’s biggest new pop groups (L-R): Hyein, Hanni, Minji, Haerin and Danielle

Unusually in the streaming era, these bands all generate huge CD sales – partly because they bundle discs with exclusive and collectible posters, stickers and lyric cards.

Many albums also come in multiple formats, with a different cover (and sometimes exclusive bonus tracks) dedicated to each specific member. Diehard fans try to collect them all.

That’s not to suggest their success is purely down to marketing: NewJeans’ breakout single SuperShy made multiple “best of the year” lists at the end of 2023, including those compiled by Rolling Stone, NME and Billboard Magazine.

And with BTS and Blackpink both expected to return with new music in 2024, K-Pop’s global domination can only grow from here.

Fearless Nadia: The Australian stuntwoman who captivated Indians

Nadia in Hunterwali
Image caption,’To school kids of the mid-forties Fearless Nadia meant courage, strength and idealism’

By Meryl Sebastian

BBC News, Kochi

“The single most memorable sound of my childhood was the clarion call of ‘Hey-y-y’ as Fearless Nadia, regal upon her horse, her hand raised defiantly in the air, rode down upon the bad guys,” acclaimed Indian playwright and director Girish Karnad wrote in 1980.

“To school kids of the mid-forties, Fearless Nadia meant courage, strength and idealism.”

Actress and stuntwoman Mary Ann Evans, best known by her stage name Fearless Nadia, took the Indian film industry by storm in 1935 when she appeared in the Hindi film Hunterwali (The Woman with a Whip).

A blonde, blue-eyed woman of Australian origin, she made a splash as she appeared in a cape, leather shorts and knee-high boots with a whip in hand.

Evans was born in Perth, Australia, in 1908 to a Greek mother and British father, according to Rosie Thomas, author of Bombay before Bollywood. She arrived in India in 1911 with her father’s army unit but settled with her family in Bombay (now Mumbai) after his death.


According to Thomas, Evans – who’d grown up learning dance and horse-riding – toured India with a Russian ballet troupe and briefly performed for a circus.

The young performer became known as a singer and dancer, performing at all kinds of venues across the country.

She was working in theatre and circus in the early 1930s when she was discovered by prominent Bollywood movie director JBH Wadia.

Nadia in Hunterwali poster
Image caption,Fearless Nadia took the Indian film industry by storm in 1935 when she appeared in Hunterwali (The Woman With a Whip)

Wadia initially cast her in small roles in films produced by his studio Wadia Movietone, which he ran with his brother Homi.

Evans was great at stunts and had a “can-do-anything attitude”, says Roy Wadia, JBH Wadia’s grandson.

So the Wadia brothers cast her in her first lead role in Hunterwali, in which she played an avenging princess who turns into a masked vigilante as she seeks revenge for her father’s death at the hands of an evil court official.

But while they were thrilled with their new star, others were not quite as ready to embrace their vision.

“The financiers of the film were quite horrified that these Parsi brothers would star a blonde, blue-eyed, white woman in a film where she was wearing hot pants and leather vests and carrying a whip and basically beating up all these bad guys in the film,” Roy Wadia says.

So they pulled out and the Wadia brothers released the film themselves.

The 1935 film was a huge hit, running houseful in theatres for weeks, and Evans went on to become the top box-office female star of the 1930s and 1940s, according to Thomas.

The film’s success also transformed Wadia Movietone into a studio known for films with fantastic stunts and theatrics. Evan’s famous yell “hey-y-y” in Hunterwali became a catchphrase.

Australian-born Nadia, also known as the "Fearless Nadia"
Image caption,Fearless Nadia was perhaps the first foreigner to attain cult status in Bollywood

“The roles she played, and the screenplays that my grandfather created for her, were about emancipation, about the freedom struggle, about literacy, about anti-corruption – all themes that were particularly relevant at that time of huge social change and turmoil [of the Indian Independence movement],” says Roy Wadia.

“Although strict British censorship forbade overt references to the freedom movement, film-makers of the 1930s and 1940s would slip casual references to Congress [party] songs and symbols into the soundtrack or screen,” Thomas writes.

“Nadia saw her role – on-screen and off – as supporting the nationalist movement and stated explicitly, ‘In all the pictures there was a propaganda message, something to fight for, for example for people to educate themselves or to become a strong nation’.”

Her roles often featured her as a cosmopolitan woman who took charge to physically fight off villains in her films, often flipping burly men over her shoulder.

“She would be jumping off waterfalls, jumping off planes, riding horses bareback, swinging on chandeliers, jumping 30ft from the roof of a castle – all stunts she did herself,” Roy Wadia says.

“In those days, there were no safety nets, no body doubles and certainly no stamped insurance.”

The actor’s dynamism and skill at stunts helped sell her on-screen persona to a fascinated audience. But they were not always an easy feat.

In a 1980 interview with Karnad, Evans talked about one of her most terrifying moments from a film shoot. The actor was working on Jungle Princess (1942), which had a scene with a lion.

“We started shooting and suddenly a lioness called Sundari gave an enormous roar and jumped. She jumped straight across my head, Homi’s head, the photographer’s head and barged through the cage, and there she was, hanging with her head and front paws on the outside and the rest of her inside.”

The lion trainer eventually got her out unharmed.

In her films, Evans often switched easily from Western clothing to Indian attire. “Always with a sense of humour and glint in the eye that lets you know that she’s like a chameleon but not really changing because under all that she remains the same person,” Roy Wadia says.

Evans eventually fell in love and became Homi Wadia’s partner, a relationship that was not approved by many in the Wadia family. The couple had the staunch support of his brother JBH Wadia, but they only married after Wadia’s mother passed away.

Roy Wadia remembers Evans as a down-to-earth, ordinary woman with a great sense of humour. “She had this huge laugh, she would make all sorts of jokes – naughty ones as well.”

Every year Evans and Homi Wadia would throw a Christmas party at their shack in Juhu, where they entertained everyone from industry colleagues, family members to friends.

“Homi would dress up as Santa Claus and make his appearance in all sorts of dramatic ways. And Mary was his partner in crime there,” Roy Wadia recalls.

The couple did not have children, but Homi Wadia adopted Evans’s son from a previous relationship. Evans died in 1996 soon after her 88th birthday. She was perhaps the first foreigner to attain cult status in Bollywood.

Israel-Gaza war: Relief and guilt after Gazans find safety in Egypt

Tala and Yazid
Image caption,Tala, pictured with Yazeed, says the guilt she feels about escaping Gaza is “one of the hardest feelings to talk about”

By Fergal Keane

BBC News, Jerusalem

They cried all the way.

Tala Abu Nahla, her mum, and little sister. Tala’s brother Yazeed, aged 17, could feel their emotion. He is disabled and has epileptic seizures. She calmed him in the way she knew how. Tala spoke softly and caressed his hands and pushed him across the border in his wheelchair.

“It was really hard because it felt like we were leaving part of us in Gaza,” she says.

All she could do was keep looking at the sky. And listening. It was the same sky but here in Egypt all the dread was gone, and they’d left behind the possibility of sudden and brutal death.

“When we went to the other side… I couldn’t hear drones anymore. And I knew I wouldn’t be hearing bombing anymore or airstrikes.”


It was late at night and Tala remembers being amazed by the electric light. Back in Rafah there was no power supply to light their house.

They had tried to get into Egypt three times before. We first spoke with Tala in November, when the Israeli offensive was only a few weeks old, but the death toll was already in the thousands and desperate crowds were gathered at the border.

“We’re trying to survive,” Tala said then. “We’re not sure we’re going to make it, but I simply don’t want to die aged 24.”

Tala’s mother was the only foreign passport holder – she is a Jordanian citizen and could have crossed. But the authorities would not allow her children to go with her. So the entire family stayed in Rafah. But last week the border guards relented and allowed them to enter Egypt.

“It felt really surreal that I was safe,” Tala says.

Tala is articulate and thoughtful. She was awarded a grant to study in America and lived for a year in Colorado “with an amazing American host family.”

She also won a scholarship under the state department’s Tomorrow’s Leaders programme, and holds an honours degree in Business Studies from the American University in Beirut. Back in Gaza she had been contemplating career possibilities when Hamas launched its attack on Israel on 7 October.

  • Why are Israel and Hamas fighting in Gaza?
  • Gaza Strip in maps: How life has changed in four months

Her Instagram account tracks the progress of a life upended by war – from the photo of a smiling young woman sitting outside a Beirut café captioned “when you let the light in, shattered glass will glitter”, to the image of the home now left behind in Rafah and the caption “we bleed the same stories no matter how far we are from you Gaza. We leave you, but you never leave us.”

Tala as a student in Beirut
Image caption,Tala during happier times as a student in Beirut

After each rejection at the Egypt border, Tala took Yazeed home, knowing that supplies of the medicine he needs to suppress his seizures were running lower.

The war has exacerbated an already difficult situation for disabled people in Gaza, where an estimated 21% of households have at least one member living with a disability. That amounts to approximately 58,000 people according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics run by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ governing body based in the occupied West Bank

There was no running water and food was getting harder to find as the Israel Defense Forces advanced and tens of thousands of frightened refugees crammed into Rafah from further north in the Gaza Strip. In December, as the Gaza death toll passed 20,000, Tala told the BBC of her relief at surviving each airstrike in the area.

“Every time I hear a rocket or bomb that’s going to drop on people… it’s horrible to say this, but it sort of it gives me this relief that it’s not us.”

The air strikes could not be explained to Yazeed. They were something he experienced as a malign, elemental force.

Tala explains: “He would have a seizure every time he heard bombing. And it got really scary like his body and his mind is not able to understand everything that’s going on, and then having to deal with the seizures without even medication. I think it was really heart-breaking for all of us.”

Now she lives in a bustling city where food and medicine are close at hand. But Tala cannot stop thinking of the people left behind in Gaza.

“I don’t think I’ve felt this guilty before,” she says. “I think this is one of the hardest feelings to talk about. I think every time I see a plane or hear a plane, and I know I’m going to be safe after hearing it, I feel guilty.

“Every time I have food to eat, or I don’t have to go running for water or oil, knowing that everything is available it makes me feel guilty. I think about everyone in Gaza, the 1.2 million people who are displaced and who right now are not even sure where to go if the military invasion happens in Rafah.”

In the sitting room of their rented apartment in Cairo, the rest of her family is watching the news from Gaza on television. But Yazeed looks like a different young man. The acute strain is gone from his face.

Tala and her younger brother Yazeed
Image caption,Tala and Yazeed on an earlier attempt to cross into Egypt. His seizures were getting “worse and worse”, she told the BBC at the time

After months wondering if they would survive, the family must now plan for the immediate future.

“Back then it was not about future plans or anything, it was ‘we want to stay alive? How are we going to do it?'” For now, the imperative is to find a doctor for Yazeed and education for Tala’s younger sister.

Tala is determined that she will go back to Gaza.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take. But I definitely want to go back, and I want to rebuild. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the same, but I guess with the history that each one of us has, going through what we never wanted and surviving it, I think we’d be able to rebuild it with all that strength.”

Tala goes to the window and looks out at the blue of the Cairo sky. It is a sky without menace, but she can never forget that it is not the sky of home.

West Africa’s Michelin-starred cuisine wows London

Ayo Adeyemi (L) and Aji Akokomi (R) from Akoko
Image caption,Ayo Adeyemi (L) and Aji Akokomi (R) opened Akoko in 2020

By Danai Nesta Kupemba

BBC News

Tender, buttery, spicy cow tongue is one of the dishes delighting diners at a high-end West African restaurant in central London.

The thinly sliced meat is seasoned with suya, a traditional Hausa spice, grilled over firewood and served with a creamy bone marrow emulsion on a ceramic plate inspired by Nigeria’s late renowned potter Ladi Kwali.

It is the signature dish of the newly minted Michelin-starred restaurant Akoko.

A Michelin star is awarded to restaurants around the world “offering outstanding cooking” – and Akoko is one of the three with a West African heritage head chef to receive the highly sought after and prestigious honour in the last year alone.

“This is just the icing on the cake,” Akoko’s executive chef Ayo Adeyemi told the BBC.


Around the corner from Akoko in London’s Fitzrovia neighbourhood another West African chef is also basking in pride.

Adejoké Bakare
Image caption,Adejoké Bakare made gastronomic history when her Chishuru restaurant was awarded a Michelin star earlier this month

Adejoké Bakare is a self-taught chef from Nigeria whose Chishuru restaurant also received a Michelin star at a ceremony in Manchester earlier this month.

She made gastronomic history, becoming the first black female in the UK to win a star and just the second in the world.

“People can connect to that fact that we are sharing our heritage and people can see themselves on the table,” she told the BBC about her accolade.

Ms Bakare hopes this recognition means Michelin will “start looking at the continent”.

Currently there is only one Michelin-starred restaurant in Africa – located in the South African city of Cape Town.

The award, widely considered the barometer of gastronomic success, has been criticised for being overwhelmingly skewed towards restaurants with white male chefs and for lacking inclusion when it comes to African cuisine.

“We are only looking for the restaurants proposing the best food regardless of category,” the UK Michelin chief inspector, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, told the BBC.

“Our restaurant selections reflect the culinary diversity and evolution of the food scene,” the inspector added.

“Chishuru and Akoko are therefore an illustration of the growing diversity of London’s fine dining scene.”

Akoko Ayamse dish
Image caption,One of Ayo Adeyemi’s creations – scallops served with ayamase stew and plantain chips

It is evident that jollof rice, egusi soup (made from melon seeds) and moi moi (puréed black-eyed peas) – among other traditional West African food present on Akoko’s and Chishuru’s menus – have now captured Michelin’s palate and attention.

This is not only limited to UK restaurants.

Parisian restaurant MoSuke, opened by celebrity chef Mory Sacko, was awarded a Michelin star within months of its opening in 2020 – the inspectors in France praising the successful fusion of his Malian and Senegalese roots with a Japanese twist.

It was the first Gallic nod to a restaurant with a mainly West African menu.

Last year, comments by British actor Will Poulter went viral with his criticism of the Michelin system and how food of African origin tended to be underrepresented at the fine-dining level

The 31-year-old had just starred in the second series of the acclaimed US TV drama The Bear – about a chaotic sandwich shop in Chicago run by an award-winning chef.

“There’s a massive oversight of food of African origin and black chefs in general,” he said.

Georgiana Viou

Maki Manoukian

I have heard several people say that African cuisines don’t have a place on gastronomic tables”Beninois chef Georgiana Viou

Things seem to be turning around, though it is a slow process, says Georgiana Viou, a chef from Benin based in France.

“I have heard several people say that African cuisines don’t have a place on gastronomic tables,” the 46-year-old told the BBC.

But Rouge, the restaurant where she is head chef in Nîmes, southern France, received a Michelin star last year.

It has a Mediterranean menu with a Beninois influence – introduced through “dja”, a traditional tomato sauce offered to all diners at the beginning of their meals.

This is Ms Viou’s way to “change mentalities” about food from Africa.

But seeing Akoko and Chishuru “serving 100% West African” food receive a Michelin star “sends out a strong signal”, she says.

“I have a secret dream of opening a restaurant with even more West African and Beninois cuisine.”

According to Mr Adeyemi, whose parents hail from Nigeria, where he spent time as a child, this growing interest in West African food stems from the region’s growing global cultural domination – think Afrobeats.

“This interest translates to food. What is one way of experiencing someone’s culture [other] than through food?” the 34-year-old asks.

He takes diners at Akoko on a culinary expedition through Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia.

“We tell a journey and a story with the food. But it is not just the food itself,” the chef says.

Akoko chef Ayo Adeyemi preparing a dish
Image caption,Akoko’s menu is influenced by dishes cooked by Ayo Adeyemi’s mother

This is a nod to Akoko’s founder Aji Akokomi. The 46-year-old Nigerian, who came to the UK in his twenties, has overseen the feeling of West Africa in the restaurant’s design – every detail meant to mirror the cuisine.

An imposing two-toned black and brown Ghanaian drum greets people as they are ushered to their tables.

There is a large floral centrepiece of dried palm leaves and African flowers, with the restaurant’s rustic clay walls evoking the atmosphere of an African village.

For Mr Akokomi, this is all meant to conjure the feeling of “ajosepo”, which means community in Nigeria’s Yoruba language – highlighting all that “Africa can offer”.

Both Mr Akokomi and Mr Ademayi set out to create a menu with their mothers and aunties in mind.

For Mr Adeyami, every spice, ingredient and dish is an ode to his mother who he said was his “first inspiration”.

He defines West African food through these three classic flavours: smoke, heat and savoury umami.

Many African restaurants in London have thrived outside the fine dining space like Chuku’s, Beyoncé’s favourite in north London, or Enish – the largest Nigerian franchise restaurant in the world with branches in the UK and Dubai.

But those behind Akoko wanted to push the boundaries of what African cuisine could achieve – opening it up to a new diners, while staying true to its roots.

“We take inspiration from authentic dishes and flavours and present it in a unique way,” Mr Ademayi says. “Our food is approachable to a Western palate and recognisable to an African palate.”

Curtis Mccalla, the Jamaican sous chef at Akoko, welcomes the inclusion of African cuisine by Michelin.

“It is about time,” he says – momentarily stopping chopping fish as the kitchen behind bustles ahead of the lunchtime sittings.

The Akoko team works like a well-oiled machine as the clock runs down to noon, when smooth African jazz fills the restaurant preparing for their first guests of the day.

With the firewood burning, the Nigerian Guinness chilled by the in-house sommelier, the chefs in their whites gather in the stainless-steel kitchen for a brief team meeting. Afterwards they all clap, the door is opened and feasting begins.

Texas zoo delivers baby gorilla via caesarean section

Jameela, the baby gorilla, stares up as she is being cradled by a human
Image caption,Jameela is reportedly “thriving”, says the zoo

By Nadine Yousif

BBC News

A premature baby gorilla was delivered via emergency caesarean section at a US zoo after its mother suffered from a medical issue called preeclampsia.

The “historic and emotional” birth of Jameela was documented by the Fort Worth Zoo on its Facebook page.

The young primate was born four to six weeks early with the help of medical specialists.

It is the first gorilla to be born via caesarean section in the zoo’s 115-year history.

Jameela – which means “beautiful” in Swahili – was born to 33-year-old Sekani, a western lowland gorilla, on 5 February, the zoo announced in a Facebook post on Valentine’s Day.

It was Sekani’s fourth pregnancy, but this time, the zoo’s veterinarians sensed that she was exhibiting signs of preeclampsia – a serious blood-pressure condition that can happen during pregnancy in both humans and primates.

After confirming Sekani’s diagnosis, the zoo said its veterinarians consulted with a local obstetrician and determined that a caesarean section was needed to save both the mother and the baby.

Western lowland gorillas like Sekani are native to central Africa, and are listed as critically endangered due to hunting and disease, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Their numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Gorillas also have a low birth rate, making it difficult for them to recover from population decline.

Jamie Erwin, the obstetrician, said delivering Jameela was one of the highlights of her entire career.

“I was amazed at how Sekani’s anatomy matched that of my human patients,” Dr Erwin said in a statement.

Jameela required immediate medical care due to her early birth, zoo officials said.

A photo of baby gorilla Jameela laying down on a pile of blankets
Image caption,Jameela required immediate medical monitoring and attention as she was born four to six weeks premature

Neonatologist Robert Ursprung helped assist with resuscitation and stabilisation efforts, as well as putting together a meal plan for the baby.

“It was incredible how similar this mother-infant pair was compared to what I see in the hospital for babies born under similar circumstances,” Dr Ursprung said.

“The baby needed critical respiratory support for a few hours post-delivery, but as she transitioned to life outside the womb, she stabilized quite nicely.”

The zoo said the mother, Sekani, has since made a full recovery, but has not yet warmed up to her new baby.

“Despite repeated attempts to reunite the mother and baby, Sekani showed little interest in caring for her baby,” the zoo said.

They added it is difficult to know exactly why the mother and baby are not bonding, but zoo experts suspect it is because Sekani did not experience the hormonal cues that could come with a natural, full-birth term.

Staff have since shifted their focus to training another gorilla, 24-year-old Gracie, to become a surrogate mother to Jameela, who is now “thriving”.

Prabowo Subianto: The tainted ex-military chief who will be Indonesia’s new leader

Prabowo Subianto
Image caption,The former military commander, seen here flashing ink-stained fingers to show he voted, has overcome a troubling human rights record

By Frances Mao

BBC News

After two failed attempts, Prabowo Subianto has finally clawed his way into Indonesia’s ultimate seat of power.

The ex-military general, accused of rights abuses and war crimes during the dark days of the Suharto regime, has triumphed in a modern-day democratic vote.

Gone were the inflammatory, nationalist comments of his previous presidential runs; in the 2024 election he sold himself as a cute grandpa on TikTok, flashing heart signs and doddering around with a viral dance.

It worked for younger voters – a generation poorly informed of the country’s past under a military dictatorship.

Some on voting day even told the BBC they wanted a strongman in office – someone to carry on the policies of the widely adored outgoing President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.

But others fear that the return of a military general – someone who was the son-in-law of Dictator Suharto – spells a slide back into dark days.

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A privileged upbringing and dark past

The 72-year-old has a shocking human rights record according to both local and international rights observers.

He is most notorious for allegations he commanded a unit which abducted and tortured several democracy activists during the dying days of the Suharto regime in the late 1990s. Of the 23, some survived, one died and 13 remain missing.

He was fired from the army following this and went into self-exile in Jordan in the 2000s.

But he returned to Indonesia a few years later, building up his wealth in palm oil and mining before making the jump to politics.

It was a space he felt entitled to, some might say. Prabowo is a political blue blood, born into an elite family embedded in Indonesian politics.

His father was a renowned economist who held several trade and finance ministerships, and his grandfather formed the first state-owned bank in the country.

During his childhood he and his family lived in exile in Switzerland and England, after his father was accused of involvement with separatist groups in Sumatra.

When he returned to Indonesia in 1970, he enlisted in the military where he quickly rose up the ranks.

In the 1980s, he did several tours with a special forces unit fighting separatists in East Timor, now the country of Timor-Leste. Witnesses accuse him of committing atrocities both there and in Papua.

During this period he also moved into Suharto’s inner sanctum, marrying in 1983 one of the former dictator’s daughters, Siti Hediati Hariyadi. Their marriage lasted 15 years, ending around the same time of the regime’s collapse.

Prabowo at this time was commander of a special forces unit accused of the activists’ abductions. While he was sacked, charges were never brought against him.

He later admitted to the kidnapping of those who survived; but the families of the missing are still protesting for answers.

In the chaotic last days of Suharto, he also instigated race riots in the capital Jakarta, directing anger at the Chinese ethnic minority, critics say. He has always denied these allegations.

After Suharto’s fall, he fled to Jordan, keeping a low profile as Indonesia pulled itself into a democratic age in the new millennium.

The ex-military figure was banned from entering the US and Australia at this point, on a blacklist for his human rights record. That ban was lifted only in recent years.

Prabowo Subianto and other men dressed in military uniform in East Timor in the late 1970s
Image caption,Prabowo in East Timor in the late 1970s

Prabowo made his comeback shortly before the 2004 elections, starting his own party and then dealing with coalitions to get his foot on the ladder.

In 2014 and 2019, he went head-to-head against his bitter enemy Jokowi in fierce presidential races. He lost both times.

But after violent protests from his supporters in the wake of his loss in 2019 – 10 people died in riots – Jokowi made a deal, bringing him into his government and installing him as defence minister.

He was free to travel then – from Paris to Washington and Beijing – as a senior Indonesian official. The Western sanctions vanished.

Rights advocates at the time warned how his elevation into a senior position legitimised his position in Indonesian governance.

“Prabowo’s appointment sends a worrying signal that our leaders have forgotten the darkest days and the worst violations committed in the Suharto era,” Amnesty International’s Indonesia director Usman Hamid said at the time.

“When Prabowo was at the helm of our special forces, activists disappeared and there were numerous allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.”

Prabowo has been pressed several times on his dark past. He denies most of the accusations and when he does admit to a crime – like the abductions – he falls back on the classic soldier defence: that he was only taking orders.

“It was my superiors who told me what to do,” he said during one presidential debate in 2014.

His rebranding for the 2024 vote was one part of the winning strategy.

But most crucially he received the backing of his former enemy, Jokowi, when the outgoing leader put his son on Prabowo’s ticket.

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court had to amend electoral rules in allowing the 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka to be the vice-presidential running mate for Prabowo. Previously, only those aged over 40 were eligible. Jokowi’s brother-in-law is the Chief Justice on the court and cast the deciding vote.

Prabowo and his running partner Gibran claim victory in Jakarta
Image caption,Prabowo and his running partner Gibran claim victory in Jakarta

Protesters in the lead up to Wednesday’s election accused Jokowi of abuse of power and electoral interference. They argue he just wanted to retain his influence in politics.

It was a good deal for Prabowo. Many voters told the BBC they trusted whomever Jokowi endorsed.

On Wednesday, the unofficial tallies showed this strategy had worked. Prabowo pulled ahead quickly in the counting, with nearly 60% of the vote in the first round, precluding any need for a run-off.

During his victory speech he addressed thousands of supporters in the stadium, making light references to the past. He reminisced about his lunches with Suharto.

A leader from that era has now returned to power in Indonesia.

For many freedom fighters, what was once unthinkable has come to pass.

North Korea hacked emails of South Korea president’s aide

This is thought to be the first time the North has successfully hacked a member of the South Korean President's team
Image caption,This is thought to be the first time the North has successfully hacked a member of the South Korean President’s team

By Jean Mackenzie

Seoul correspondent

North Korea hacked into the personal emails of an aide to the South Korean president, his office has confirmed to the BBC.

The breach occurred in the run-up to President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to the UK last November.

The staff member was hacked after using a personal email account for official work, the president’s office said.

A local newspaper cited a high-ranking government source as saying hackers had accessed Mr Yoon’s trip schedule.

The Kukmin Ilbo newspaper added that messages sent by the president had also been stolen.

But the president’s office would not divulge what information was stolen.

This is thought to be the first time the North has successfully hacked a member of the South Korean president’s team.

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In a statement, the president’s office stressed that its security system had not been hacked.

“The breach was caused by a careless violation of security regulations by an individual administrator who used a commercial email for work purposes,” it told the BBC.

North Korea uses cyber hacking to steal both money and information, and its means are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Pyongyang is subject to extreme international sanctions, and its cyberhackers seek to steal large sums of money, often in cryptocurrency, to fund the regime and its nuclear weapons programme.

It is estimated to have stolen as much as $3bn since 2016.

North Korea is also thought to carry out hacks with the purpose of stealing state secrets, including details of advanced weapons technology.

The South Korean government source, who spoke to the Kukmin Ilbo on the condition of anonymity, said they were “beyond shocked and appalled” when they learnt about the breach, adding it could have caused problems for Mr Yoon’s security abroad.

President Yoon visited London for a three-day state visit in November, during which he met King Charles and Queen Camilla, as well as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The South Korean government said that the incident had been detected before the president’s trip began, and the necessary measures were taken to address it.

It added it had taken steps to strengthen its security, including raising awareness among its team, to prevent another such incident from occurring.

Pakistan election: Imran Khan’s rivals PML-N and PPP reach deal to form government

Shehbaz Sharif
Image caption,PML-N’s Nawaz Sharif plans to nominate his brother Shehbaz Sharif – pictured here – to be prime minister

By Caroline Davies

Pakistan correspondent

Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto’s parties in Pakistan have reached a deal to form a government.

Mr Bhutto’s PPP said it would help Mr Sharif’s PML-N elect a prime minister after last week’s election.

The two parties were previously in a coalition that ousted Imran Khan from power in 2022.

This time, independent candidates backed by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party unexpectedly won the most seats.

PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari told a press conference that although his party and PML-N had contested elections against each other, they had come together in the interests of the nation.

“It is not necessary that [we fight] forever,” Mr Zardari said.

The PML-N said in a statement that both parties had agreed to cooperate in the interests of political stability.The results – in which independents backed by the PTI took 93 out of 266 directly elected seats – had left voters uncertain about which parties would form the next government.Mr Sharif’s PML-N won 75 seats while Mr Bhutto’s PPP came third with 54 seats.In addition, parties will be allocated more seats from the 70 reserved for women and non-Muslims. These additional seats are not available to independent candidates.According to PML-N official Marriyum Aurangzeb, party leader Mr Sharif plans to nominate his brother Shehbaz to be prime minister. Both men have previously served as prime minister.While Mr Bhutto says his party will help elect a PML-N prime minister, he earlier said it would not take any cabinet positions.

Imran Khan and his party have continued to emphasise that they believe the elections were rigged against them and plan to challenge the results.He said: “I warn against the misadventure of forming a government with stolen votes.

“Such daylight robbery will not only be a disrespect to the citizens but will also push the country’s economy further into a downward spiral.”