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Shaka Ilembe

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The incredible women of Shaka iLembe

08 August 2023
Celebrating Shaka iLembe’s women this Women’s Month.
collage of african women

August 9 marks Women’s Day in South Africa, a day that commemorates the women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest the carrying of pass books during Apartheid. Women formed an integral part of the struggle, but even before then women left their mark on our country’s history and that includes the women in Shaka’s life.

We’ve watched these women from ages past come alive again in Shaka iLembe and since it’s Women’s Month, we think it’s the perfect time to zero in on the incredible feminine forces in the show.

Shaka’s devotion to this mother is legendary. It’s understandable, given how she devoted her life to loving and protecting him, moving him from kraal to kraal to ensure his safety. This frustrating journey is depicted in Shaka iLembe as Nandi moves back and forth between the chiefdoms. Her indomitable spirit is fiercely and finely portrayed by the luminescent Nomzamo Mbatha, who also acts as a producer on the show. No matter what you throw at either of these women, they tackle the challenge with a grit and determination that sees Nandi become a queen and Nomzamo a star.

Another queen on Shaka iLembe, her story is arguably one of the most fascinating and she is powerfully brought to the screen by Khabonina Qubeka. Forced to send her son Goloza into hiding she nevertheless does everything in her power first to save him, then protect him, and finally have him accepted by the rest of the family and the royal household. But Ntombazi has no favourites: she is equally devoted to her son Zwide and wants nothing more than for her sons to rule together and have the best of everything.

This princess and kingmaker is often relegated to second place, having to back down to make way for her brother, King Senzangakhona. But while she may back down in theory, in practice she makes her presence felt through her wisdom and counsel. An actress with a commanding presence was needed for this royal force and that was found in Dawn Thandeka King.

Ntombazi and Baleka are often labelled as witches … a moniker popularly slapped onto women who were believed to display and wield more power than society believed was proper. But like many so-called witches, Baleka is a healer, working with the natural world to find ways of easing, soothing, and mending all the aches and pains of the show’s various men. And what did she get for her troubles … stabbed! Luckily she survived, and we saw our favourite ship restored when she and Dingiswayo were reunited. This character is beautifully brought to life by Hope Mbhele.

Patriarchal societies that dictate how you may live and behave make it difficult to stand together and unite as women, but women have found a way nevertheless. Even though customs and conventions make it tough for Piklile to hang out with her bestie Nandi, these two always find a moment to reconnect and encourage each other to stay strong. Piklile is portrayed by Ziya Xulu, whose unwavering energy bounces off the screen and blends perfectly with Nomzamo’s Nandi.

There are many incredible women to watch in Shaka iLembe. Be sure to join them every Sunday at 20:00 on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) or stream live from the DStv App via web or mobile. Watch the repeat on Fridays at 21:30.

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.