'Why are Pondos in 'Igazi' wearing Xhosa regalia?'

17 April 2016 - 02:00 By GABI MBELE

If South Africa's latest star-studded drama series looks and sounds familiar, that's because it probably is. Mzansi Magic's new Xhosa show, Igazi, premiered on Sunday and while some viewers raved about it, the producers came under fire on social media for "recycling" actors and buying into cultural stereotypes."Same actors all round TV, we get so confused. Don't know if you watching Greed and Desire or Igazi, haai ama-actors niyasi-confusa maarn [you're confusing us]," wrote TheeReelJustice.Another viewer, Musa Mashila, tweeted: "Everyone going on about how amazing the cast is. Same actors recycled on SA TV."Siyabonga Thwala and Luthuli Dlamini are among those who have featured in multiple shows. Thwala, who plays Mpiyakhe Zungu in Isibaya, has starred in many soapies including Generations, Scandal!, Muvhango, Rhythm City and Isidingo. Dlamini has featured in as many as six soapies, including The Road and Zabalaza.story_article_left1But Kutlwano Ditsele, of production house The Bomb Shelter, said using familiar faces was a global practice. "This is a huge trend. Martin Scorsese constantly used Leonardo DiCaprio in his films and I know we at Bomb are also guilty of doing this, but we treat these actors like family."When we launch actors we try to reuse them on our other productions. For example, the majority of the cast we introduced in Yizo Yizo, we later used on Zone 14," said Ditsele.Igazi, produced by acting couple Shona and Connie Ferguson's company, Ferguson Films, is set in Johannesburg and the hills beyond Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape. It is a tale of magic, myth and melodrama about a Pondo royal family in conflict over the throne. The family is at war with itself and magical forces of darkness, and a man has to fight for his father's kingdom.Its all-star cast includes Nomhle Nkonyeni, Jet Novuka, Vatiswa Ndara, Allen Booi, Peter Sephuma, Zandile Msutwana and four former Generations actors, Thami Mngqolo, Anga Makubalo, Zikhona Sodlaka and Zenande Mfenyana.The series also took a hit on social media for "misrepresentation of the amaMpondo nation". This was followed up by a letter to Mzansi Magic from Deputy Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who wrote: "It is with the utmost disappointment that I watched, together with the amaMpondo nation, the misrepresentation and disregard of our culture on this first episode of Igazi."The traditional amaMpondo attire was actually Xhosa regalia, she wrote. Also, the language spoken throughout and the amaMpondo cultural expressions were inappropriately presented.story_article_right2Nokuzola Mndende, a former African indigenous religions lecturer at the University of Cape Town and director of the Icamagu Institute, agreed that "TV shows, producers and actors should be more responsible when showcasing African cultures. The problem is they don't do thorough research. We understand it's meant to be entertaining, but they are distorting people's cultures."Phepsile Maseko, national co-ordinator of the Traditional Healers Organisation, said members were "offended at the influx of shows constantly toying with our culture. They show these healers in the same beading and cloths as we wear in our culture. We do not channel bad [things], we speak to idlozi , which is equivalent to the holy spirit. Why not tell accurate stories of healings, why mock black culture?"In February, the organisation complained to the SABC about Muvhango and Generations "depicting African spirituality, traditional healing and ubungoma [divination] in a derogatory way".Nkateko Mabaso, director of local entertainment channels at DStv, said the service appreciated the deputy minister's comments and had responded in detail. "The concerns have been communicated to the producers of Igazi."We've asked that they undertake further research and seek expert opinion on the portrayal of amaMpondo and Xhosa culture, to avoid any possible concerns in future."mbeleg@sundaytimes.co.za

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