In the past, M-Net has made mention of their desire to create such a production but it was nothing more than a thought at the time and now, Bomb Productions, together with Mzansi Magic have entered into a partnership aimed at making 'Shaka: Ilembe' a reality.
This drama will tell the story of pre-colonial kingdoms and paramountcies; and the heroes and villains who shaped and influenced one of Africa’s greatest Kings – Shaka kaSenzangakhona.
The 12-part series (created for global distribution) has been almost four years in the planning as M-Net continues to solidify its vision of becoming the leading African storyteller in the world. Bomb is in partnership with M-Net’s Mzansi Magic on this ambitious project and has commenced initial pre-production as they jointly seek strategic partnerships.
“We have seen how global audiences are ready to enjoy universal stories from multiple geographies. Now it is time for the incredible tradition of African storytelling to travel beyond our continent,” said CEO of General Entertainment for MultiChoice, Yolisa Phahle, in a statement.
“We are committed to building a film and television industry that will deliver benefits to our industry and are increasing our investment in local productions,” added Phahle.
“With ambitions of making a series as epic and vast as Game of Thrones, we want to tell the story of the Nguni peoples who migrated to below the Pongola river and ruled over this verdant land. With 3 action packed seasons mapped out, we hope to breathe life into the kings and queens, warriors and witches, spies, slavers, marauders and traders who lived, loved and fought for this land. This is a legacy project and has deep meaning to the team who have been telling stories of every day South African heroes and heroines for the past 21 years” explained executive producer and co-creator Teboho Mahlatsi.
“This is not a colonial telling of a great African empire, this story will finally be told from our perspective.”
Bomb is known for creating some of South Africa’s most iconic television, such as Yizo Yizo, Zone 14, Jacob’s Cross, Isibaya and many more. The team collectively boasts hundreds of awards including 22 SAFTA’s, two Sundance awards, an Emmy award, The Venice Silver Lion, the Pare Lorentz award as well as a Bafta and Oscar nomination.
The directing team that brought us Yizo Yizo 21 years ago, Angus Gibson and Teboho Mahlatsi, are excited to be working together on this epic series.
“Scale will not be compromised – whether that be in battles with 20 000 warriors, the visualization of a kingdom or the capturing of an elephant,” emphasized Gibson and Mahlatsi.
The team behind the scenes is vast, comprising of historians, traditional leaders, oral custodians, royal advisors, intellectuals and filmmakers, and they are all plowing through the many versions of these stories to ensure authenticity. Said team includes acclaimed playwright Mpumulelo Grootboom, Catherine Stewart, Nhlanhla Mtaka, Jacob Ntshangase, Hlonipa Mokoena, Benedict Carton and Thishiwe Ziqubu to name a few.
The series will tell the story of the powers that influenced and shaped Shaka – the drama unfolding from the time of his conception, his unmatched bravery as a young man, the early attempts on his life – and the subsequent years of exile with his mother. We will meet the great chiefdoms of the AmaThethwa, the AmaNdwandwe, AmaQwabe, AmaHlubi and more. And out of this epic canvas, we will see the heroic rise of Shaka.
"We are at a pivotal time in history, a time where South Africa is reclaiming its own story, where history has been re-examined – what we once were told (or believed) is being shattered - not with new truths, but truths that were suppressed. To tell the story of Shaka is a huge honor, and a huge responsibility" said Ntshangase.
To this day, when one thinks of Shaka Zulu, the image of actor, Henry Cele (who played him in the 1986 TV series) comes to mind for people across the world, not just South Africa.
In addition to the imagined scale Bomb Productions and M-Net have in mind for this production, they will have the mammoth task of helping reimagine the Shaka we've come to know by reintroducing him the best way they know how. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm looking forward to this one.
Main image credit: ancient-origins.net