Uzalo is a South African telenovela exploring two affluent families in the KwaZulu Natal township of KwaMushi. The daily programme is an explicit reminder that the country can compete with well-established foreign television series and that stories by us and for us are far more powerful.
The story is fascinating. The Mdletshe family and the Xulu family could not be further apart with former family involved in the local church and the latter family committing organised crime. The eldest sons in both families were switched at birth – this forms the central underlying story of the series. Uzalo translates to birth, which reveals the story line but also crafts a story of the impact Uzalo plays on the perception of South African creatives, particularly in film.
The show is proudly South African. The series portrays South African identity through a realistic portrayal of lifestyle and drama. The show is captivating to South Africans because it is relateable.
Viewers were first captivated by the telenovela in February 2015. Since then, late evening television screens have been fixed to the daily fortunes or crises of the two families. Uzalo´s story is also a tale of perservering through odds. A telenovela rarely continues past one year, unlike soap operas. However, this series has survived and its story may remain dear to South African for a while longer.
It is unapologetically Zulu
In a local film industry that is struggling to catch its feet, it is easy to sacrifice local identity to appease existing perceptions. However, Uzalo has no intent to do that. TEDxBloemfontein reached out to B.A. Dramatic Arts student, Angelinah Mofokeng, who stated that, ¨We need to make more work which is in our languages. Uzalo is one such work. It is unapologetically Zulu and set in a Zulu township.¨
Uzalo may not have given birth to the local film industry, but it can play a role in raising it.
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