Nandi Nyembe as grandmother Yaisa in the remake of the blockbuster 1977 miniseries 'Roots' on e.tv.
Internationally acclaimed drama series Roots is making it’s way back to SA through the local channel e.tv starting from Monday and features an array of local and international stars such as Nandi Nyembe, Nokuthula Ledwaba, and Mbulelo Grootman starring alongside international actors Forest Whitaker, Lawrence Fishburne, Anika Rose, Malachi Kirby and Anna Paquin.

The four-part drama series is a remake of the 1977 miniseries based on Alex Haley’s classic novel titled Roots.

It follows the family of Kunta Kinte from their origins at Juffure village in West Africa, their voyage and up until their slavery in America.

The series was shot at different locations in South Africa, and it is something which veteran actress Nandi Nyembe enjoyed. She plays Yaisa, Kunta Kinte’s grandmother.

‘“My character is the grandmother to Kunta Kinte, she is just a lady who looks after her family and makes sure everything is okay.

“It was so great to have been part of this production... we were treated like kings and queens, we had our own trailers, our own drivers, and all the international artist they are so humble, and they called me mama. They did not make us feel like they’re the best. We were one big family. So it was a really beautiful shoot.

“My character never went to the other side, which is the white side. It ended up in the rural area where Kunta was born. Yaisa’s sadness came when her grandson decided to leave the village, and she feared for him not knowing whether Kunta is going to be sold into slavery, or get killed that saddened her.”

Nyembe says Roots evokes sad emotions, and it needs to be seen by everyone

“It is a sad story, and all these young ones - they call them born frees - they are the ones who need to see this because that’s where they come from, and it’s our history. This is what was happening to us, and even to the San people. They’ve had their great grandparents who were killed by white people, for the simplest reasons, and it varied,” she said.

She continued: “Stories that are portrayed now are about Mandela, Winnie, and there are so many people who have actually fought in this thing, and people don’t realise that there are more.”

Continued the actress: “The sad part is we don’t have money, those people overseas have got money, and they buy our stories, they buy the rights, and this is why all the Mandelas, and the Winnie’s stories and all those political stories they put their own people. And then it dies, because people don’t want to watch because it is not real.”

Sunday Independent