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Mzansi's first-ever Xitsonga telenovela makes its TV debut

The cast of "Giyani - Land of Blood". Picture: Supplied

The cast of "Giyani - Land of Blood". Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 2, 2019


For the first time ever, South Africa has got its own Xitsonga telenovela. That means that the more than 3.5 million Vatsonga people in South Africa will finally have authentic representation.

"Giyani - Land of Blood" is set in the heart of Limpopo and brings to life two families locked in a bitter, decades-long squabble over a banana plantation.

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The first episode, which aired last night, opened with a jubilant celebration of land being returned to the community as a result of a successful land restitution claim.

The farm is renamed Tiakeni, in tribute to the community’s perseverance in taking back their land.

The telenovela is produced by Phathutshedzo Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon. The duo, who produce "The River," won big at this year’s Saftas.

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"In 2014, the SABC issued commissioning briefs requesting a telenovela proposal and around that time telenovelas were very new in South Africa.

"I was curious about what could be the next big topic, and at that time I used to drive to Bushbuckridge and just after White River there was this big plantation of bananas and I was curious about the ownership of land," said Makwarela.

He discussed it with Beynon on how to factor that into a show and between endless brainstorms they ended up with "Giyani - Land of Blood".

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"South Africa today is going through a difficult change, issues of ownership of land and the struggle of economic freedom are all themes that are part of the show," he said.

Makwarela held a massive casting search across Johannesburg, Polokwane and Giyani.

"This allowed us to discover new, fresh faces as part of our drive to open up the industry to new talent. And we also brought in beloved SABC2 actors and personalities like Ndivhuho Mutsila from "Muvhango," Linah Ebony Ngcobo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka."

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When asked how significant "Giyani - Land of Blood" was, Makwarela said: "For me, this is not just a TV show. This is a TV show that matters. It is a show that talks about South Africa today, who we are and how we have allowed ourselves to be torn apart by greed. But all this drama is told through a minority language and that fact is spellbinding for me."

For Makwarela, the fact that it’s the first Xitsonga television drama in South Africa is what sets it apart from everything else on TV.

"As a Muvenda, I know what it’s like growing up without hearing people speak my language on TV. "Giyani - Land of Blood" is more than a catchphrase - it’s a show that is giving voice to people who didn’t have a voice on television for what feels like forever," he said.

The drama airs on SABC2 at 9.30pm from Mondays to Wednesdays.

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