Shaka iLembe, a new epic historical drama, is set in the 1700s and depicts the life of the iconic Zulu king from his early childhood throughout adulthood. It premiered on Mzanzi Magic (DStv channel 161) on 18 June 2023.
While Shaka iLembe has been in the making for six years, it only started shooting in 2022. The series was produced in collaboration with Bomb Productions, known for creating some of South Africa’s most iconic television, such as Yizo Yizo, Zone 14, Jacob’s Cross, Isibaya and many more. The team collectively boasts hundreds of awards including 22 SAFTA’s, two Sundance Awards, an Emmy Award, The Venice Silver Lion, the Pare Lorentz Award as well as a Bafta and Oscar nomination. Before filming began, consultations were had with historians, academics, and family descendants, including the current Zulu king, Misuzulu kaZwelithini, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the late King Goodwill Zwelithini.
The two key actors playing Shaka are the incredibly talented Lemogang Tsipa (adult king) and newcomer Ntando Zondi (young Shaka). Nomzamo Mbatha plays Queen Nandi, the revered mother of Shaka, with Thembinkosi Mthembu starring as King Dingiswayo and Wiseman Mncube in the role of King Zwide. Nomzamo Mbatha portrays the role of Queen Nandi, and is also an executive producer.
Mbatha, who also serves as an executive producer on Shaka iLembe, told Variety: “I am honoured to bring the giant that is Queen Nandi to life. History will remember those who informed its people of where we come from, to better understand who we are. I am fortunate to be part of a project that is much bigger than ourselves and to tell this story in our own language. Impi iyeza!”
Shaka iLembe is the largest series ever created by MultiChoice. In the first season of Shaka iLembe, Bomb Productions brought together 9 150 contributors, with 900 crew, including stunt people, dancers and musicians; 250 main and background actors; with a further 8 000 background actors from KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg, according to News24.
“For decades, MultiChoice has showcased the strength and skill of local filmmakers and Shaka iLembe represents the epitome of this investment. We are proud of this title and hope that our viewers will see that we worked to respect Nguni culture and traditions while delivering an entertaining series on an epic scale that truly befits the era of Kings and Queens it brings to life,” Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice General Entertainment CEO, said at the premiere event.
The series is set to have three seasons, with each season depicting a different era of King Shaka’s life. The first season starts before his birth and takes viewers up to when he becomes king of the Zulus, while the second season will cover Shaka unifying and creating the Zulu nation. Season three will chronicle his downfall and the growth of the Zulu nation after that.
New episodes of Shaka iLembe can be watched every Sunday at 20:00 on Mzanzi Magic (DStv 161) and on DStv Catch Up.