If you paid any attention in history class, you’ll know something about the legendary South African king, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, or Shaka Zulu as he is more popularly known. His legend lives on today. In Durban, there’s an airport and a marine park named after him. There have been books and essays, he’s featured in a video game, and of course, he’s been depicted on the screen.
Intriguingly, while Mandela is constantly portrayed by American and British actors, the same has not been the case for Shaka. The most renowned portrayal until now has been that of Henry Cele, a South African actor, in the series Shaka Zulu. Now, in Shaka iLembe, two actors, also South African, portray the legend. This is in keeping with making the production local on all levels, from the cast to the locations.
Shaka iLembe's story starts with Shaka's parents Nandi and Senzangakhona, with the main man coming in later. His depiction started as that of a young boy, played by the very talented Ntando Zondi. Fans absolutely loved him in the role.
Now that Shaka is growing into a man, Lemogang Tsipa has stepped up to the plate. Shaka has been described as tall, dark, muscular, and strong, so physically Tsipa is perfect for the part. But he also comes with the necessary acting chops. This versatile actor has appeared in a range of Hollywood films and series, from the Stephen King-based sci-fi The Dark Tower to the action thriller Eye in the Sky. Locally, he’s racked up roles in Isithembiso, Blood Psalms, and Beyond the River.
Viewers have long known of Tsipa's involvement in Shaka iLembe, but we had to wait until episode 8 to finally see him as Shaka. It was worth the wait: not only does he look the part, but Tsipa brilliantly carries across every emotion roiling through this young king-to-be.
From defiance, rejection, and determination to planning a Friday night booze up, Tsipa nailed every moment … even getting up close and personal with a snake. Now that’s commitment.
And it’s not over yet. There are still four episodes to go, and we can’t wait to continue watching this great actor embody this great role.
Missed Lemogang Tsipa’s entrance as Shaka? Watch the repeat tonight, Friday 11 August, at 21:30 or watch it on DStv Stream here.
Make sure you tune in every Sunday at 20:00 on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) for new episodes or stream live from the DStv App via web or mobile.
For more info on the series, produced by the acclaimed Bomb Productions, visit the show page here or follow #ShakaiLembeMzansi on social media. Shaka iLembe is headline sponsored by Telkom. Associate sponsors are Grant’s Whisky and LottoStar, while tactical sponsors are Santam and Toyota SA.