Marguerite Poland's 'Shades' to light up the small screen

27 July 2020 - 12:15
'Shades' is a spellbinding novel of love and dispossession.
'Shades' is a spellbinding novel of love and dispossession.
Image: Supplied

A television adaptation of Shades, the best-selling novel by the doyenne of South African historical fiction Marguerite Poland, was successfully pitched to international media company, C21.

 “I would have danced on the table,” an exhilarated Poland said of the news, “but it is older than me!”

The pitch was presented by Libby Dougherty and The Bomb Shelter, a film and television production company based in Johannesburg. Dougherty is the writer/producer for the project and will be working alongside associate producer Nomzamo Mbatha, director Angus Gibson, and executive producer Desireé Markgraaff.

The judges felt that Shades was fresh, compelling, modern and delivered a provocative approach to a period piece, featuring flawed, fascinating and deeply human characters with whom the audience will empathise. They were equally impressed with the highly experienced team behind the project who provide an organic diversity of perspectives.

About the book

Against a backdrop of drought, the rinderpest pandemic, the South African War, the burgeoning gold-mining industry and the complex birth of the exploitive system of recruiting migrant labour, Shades explores the growing tensions between cultures in SA at the turn of the 20th century and the deepening awareness of the black mission-educated elite, empowered by the printing press, of the need to articulate their political and spiritual beliefs.

Set within the microcosm of an isolated Eastern Cape mission, Shades is not only a love story and the chronicle of a family but a sensitive and perceptive insight into the country's wider conflicts.

It explores the slow but inexorable destruction of the fabric of a community, the assault on its traditions and the struggle to reconcile two faiths: the Christian and the traditional beliefs of the amaXhosa in their ancestral shades. It is the story of those far-sighted enough to seek convergence and those destined to undermine its wisdom.

Primarily, Shades is an intimate tale of love, friendship, acceptance and profound loss: of life, of faith and of belonging.