‘Shaka Ilembe’: A showcase of African creativity and visual storytelling attracts international interest

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‘Shaka Ilembe’, the highly anticipated South African series, has become a global sensation, captivating international content buyers with its exceptional storytelling and celebrating the richness of African creativity.

The series, launched on MultiChoice’s video entertainment service DStv across sub-Saharan Africa in June, has already garnered significant interest beyond the continent. MultiChoice Studios, renowned for its successful original productions like ‘Reyka’ and ‘Trackers’, is actively presenting ‘Shaka Ilembe’ to international buyers at film markets worldwide, with MIP Africa at FAME Week Africa serving as a key event.

The global appeal of ‘Shaka Ilembe’ lies in its ability to transport audiences into the majestic ancient era of African Kings and Queens, warriors, healers, and leaders, and to showcase the enduring legacy and culture they created. Nomsa Philiso, CEO of MultiChoice General Entertainment, expressed her confidence in the series, saying: “This series speaks to the fascination that the world has always had with King Shaka and the heritage of the Zulu Nation. It goes beyond entertainment, delivering representation, diversity, and progress. We are excited to share this immersive experience with audiences worldwide.”

At the heart of ‘Shaka Ilembe’is the exceptional talent of Nomzamo Mbatha, who delivers a powerful performance as Queen Nandi and serves as an Executive Producer. Mbatha herself described ‘Shaka Ilembe’ as a remarkable production that transcends entertainment, combining meticulous attention to detail, stunning wardrobe designs, and a resonant script inspired by real events and people. The series represents representation, diversity, and progress, making it a truly special testament to African creativity.

The ensemble cast of ‘Shaka Ilembe’includes a wealth of South African talent, including Lemogang Tsipa, Senzo Radebe, Wiseman Mncube, Thembinkosi Mthembu, and Mondli Makhoba, as well as actresses Khabonina Qubeka, Sthandiwe Kgoroge, Dawn Thandeka King, and rising star Hope Mbhele. Filmed in South Africa, the series showcases the breathtaking landscapes of KwaZulu-Natal, home to many of South Africa’s Zulu people, featuring its majestic mountains, sprawling savanna, and captivating coastline.

The series’ costume design, led by award-winning production costume designer Sheli Masondo, is a crucial element in bringing the story to life. Known for her work on global productions like Beyoncé Knowles’ ‘Black is King’ film based on ‘The Lion King’, Masondo’s creative vision shines in Shaka Ilembe, enhancing the visual experience for viewers and adding authenticity to the story through intricate and captivating costumes.

‘Shaka Ilembe’ has caught the attention of international content buyers, reflecting its powerful storytelling and the global demand for diverse narratives. Mauro Black, MultiChoice Studios’ Content, Sales, and Distributions Director, emphasized the cultural significance of ‘Shaka Ilembe’ as a compelling export, saying, “‘Shaka Ilembe’ was crafted to incorporate a rich tapestry of Zulu history into a highly engaging prime-time drama. Its deeply meaningful yet profoundly enjoyable storytelling makes it a title that will resonate with audiences worldwide.”

Martin Hiller, Portfolio Director of FAME Week Africa, expressed his excitement about ‘Shaka Ilembe’s impact on African storytelling and job creation within local communities. He said, “With Multichoice being FAME Week Africa’s super sponsor, we are proud to have a panel discussion around Shaka and the importance it has not only to boost African storytelling but also how big productions can create jobs for the communities it is filmed in. Another coup is to be able to have the costumes on display and a fireside chat with the costume designers to understand their process in adding to the authenticity of the story through the costumes.”

With over 8000 people contributing their skills to create Shaka Ilembe, the series has already won the support of five of South Africa’s biggest brands (Telkom, LottoStar, Grant’s Whisky, Toyota SA and Santam) who all signed on as commercial partners within days of seeing an extended preview of the series.  In addition, it’s Academy Award and BAFTA nominated Creative Director Angus Gibson and Sundance winning Executive Producer Desiree Markgraaff have drawn from the best of South Africa’s talent, including acclaimed Zulu musician Mbuso Khoza whose skill and vision drives the series soundtrack. 

As ‘Shaka Ilembe’ continues to captivate audiences globally, its international recognition as a showcase of African creativity and visual storytelling grows. The series stands as a testament to the depth of talent within Africa’s entertainment industry, drawing attention from international content buyers and paving the way for more diverse and engaging narratives.

FAME Week Africa runs from 4 to 6 September 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information click here.