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While viewers’ perceptions of Mzansi Magic’s first tele-novela, iNkaba, continue to show mixed responses, Debashine Thangevelo looks at |its recent Fashion Against Xenophobia storyline. Actress Nompilo Gwala, who plays designer Nothando, and real-life fashion designer |Olè Ledimo, who was a consultant during |the undertaking, shed more light on this unquestionably pertinent and rife issue in SA…
LOCAL offerings, especially daily dramas, tend to mirror societal ills to create an awareness as well as eradicate stereotyping and the grooming of a sheep mentality.
Everything from politics to all forms of abuse and corruption has been tackled time and time again.
This time around Mzansi Magic’s iNkaba decided to use its fashion industry backdrop to make a profound statement about xenophobia.
To ensure the fluidity as well as the authenticity of such an under-taking with the Fashion Against Xenophobia showcase, they got Olè Ledimo, of the House of Olè, on board. In the trade for a decade, Ledimo studied at the London College of Fashion and has taken part in fashion shows around the globe. By the way, he has worked with SABC1’s Generations and SABC2’s Muvhango.
Chatting about his involvement, Ledimo says: “They approached me to audition as one of the characters because iNkaba is about fashion.
“They came to my studio in Rivonia for the casting. But instead I opted to consult for their wardrobe and all their fashion events.”
He explains: “Look, I’m running a business. Being a character means it will take time away from that.”
To ensure the continuity of the episode in question, research was a crucial building block. “I worked with the storyline. I needed to understand the characters and dress them accordingly.
“If someone is cast as a seamstress, they have to look like one in pretty much the same way a fashion designer has to look the part,” Ledimo clarifies.
And he certainly had his work cut out for him trying to design outfits for three designers, the main one being Nothando for Kwa-Mbali, between Kwezi and Miranda.
“The looks were different. One focused on street wear, but very high fashion stuff. Another one went with a more avant-garde approach. But the first two were just curtain raisers for Nothando.
“The outfits had to carry the xenophobia message across. For the Kwa-Mbali collection, the models represented the hurt with a plaster on the forehead and the like. The first model was dressed in black and covered in newspaper.
“Each outfit represented a theme: white was freedom, colour represented happiness and so on.”
Meanwhile, Nompilo Gwala, who plays Nothando, sheds light on how she auditioned for a cameo as a model – her profession at the time – only to walk away with her first acting gig.
“I was modelling and have done commercials. I auditioned for the part of a model because that was what I was doing as a job. The producer, who was doubling as a casting director, happened to see me and asked if they had given me a script,” she shares.
That raw audition clearly made an indelible impression.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” laughs Gwala. “I always loved television. I was studying communication science through Unisa when I got the part.
“I thought it was something new and exciting to look forward to – especially when I heard John Kani was going to be in the show.”
Given her modelling background, Gwala says it did lend itself to her delivering a more compelling performance.
“I guess it does make my role as a designer more believable. Especially when I’m looking at the fabrics – I understand all of that,” she explains.
As for her foray into acting, she laughs: “It has been quite a journey. And it has been the most condensed acting course I will ever go through in my life.
“The cast are all so very warm and we have a good working environment on set. It is inevitable that you end up building friend-ships with the people you work with.”
Touching on the xenophobic plot, Gwala says: “They (the writers) have been very clear about depicting socially responsible messages. Even Pascal is from the DRC. And Nothando bounces ideas off him.”
On what’s coming up, the gorgeous actress hints: “Nothando is going to grow even more. Her Kwa-Mbali brand is going to grow even more and she is going from strength to strength. But the xenophobia story isn’t over. It gets even more complicated and heated.”
Hmm, looks like more dramatic fireworks are in the pipeline – and it won’t be confined to the ramp.
• iNkaba is on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 107) at 8.30pm from Monday to Thursday.