Celebrating black excellence in SA TV this Freedom Day
Transformation hasn’t been easy, especially in the South African landscape - in fact, it’s been a long journey. But it has been a rewarding one nonetheless.
It’s amazing to witness the creative freedom and growth since democracy was established in 1994.
Looking back, talented actors weren’t given the platforms - or prestige - they hold now. They were to a large extent relegated to supporting roles and kept in the background.
Times have changed. And it’s brought with it a tidal shift.
Just to revisit this incredible time in our country’s history, it marked the birth of several iconic TV offerings.
SABCs long-running soapie, “Generations”, established in 1993 by the inimitable Mfundi Vundla, was ahead of the curve and pushed this wave of change.
Vundla introduced the world of advertising to viewers via the powerful Moroka clan. I mean this show pioneered for several reasons: storytelling, casting and direction. Controversies aside, it is still going strong on SABC1.
It also introduced us to Shona and Connie Ferguson, who are now a tour de force in the industry with their production house, Ferguson Films.
To date, they’ve given us “Rockville”, “iGazi”, “The Gift”, “The Throne”, “The Herd”, “The Queen”, “The River” and “The Imposter”. Last year, they made their debut on Netflix with the six-part fantasy action series, “Kings of Joburg”.
Remember “Yizo Yizo”, the gritty teen drama that left viewers glued to their screens for several seasons since 1999.
This series took us into the heart of the township, exploring the challenges faced by teenagers attending Supatsela High. And the writers explored the moral conundrums faced by the students, who are surrounded by violence and criminal gangs.
The series was helmed by Meshack Mavuso, who has gone on to leave deep footprints in the industry with roles in “Isidingo”, “Soul City”, “Heist”, “The River” and “Durban Gen”.
Did I mention, he’s gone on to direct, too.
Then we have Hlomla Dandala, who created a stir as Derek Nyati on “Isidingo”. His character’s interracial relationship was the talk of the town.
Aside from proving his mettle in “Gaz’lam”, “Tsha Tsha”, “Jozi H”, “The Republic” and “The River”, he has done a plethora of movies and has explored the world behind the camera, too.
Sisanda Henna today wears the hat of producer, director and actor.
But he too had a humble start in an evolving industry when he landed the part of Andile in “Tsha Tsha” - a part that bagged him a prestigious Duku Duku Award for Best Actor. One that he still holds on to with so much pride years later.
Let’s look at Khanyi Mbau. She was taken under the legendary Duma Ndlovu’s wing and cast in his groundbreaking Venda soapie, “Muvhango”, on SABC2.
At the time, she was a new kid on the block. Young, eager and, sadly, vulnerable to the ills of fame.
Yes, she turned into a wild child and spiralled out of control but she cleaned up her act, humbled herself to the industry and returned with a vengeance.
Today, she’s bagging acting gigs left, right and centre and will be returning in the sequel to the hit movie, “Happiness is a Four Letter Word”, on Netflix.
There are so many more success stories in television. And it wouldn’t be the case without democracy and transformation.
Today, many of these icons are paving the way for future generations by creating opportunities that didn’t come easily to them.