It's been 20 years since Soul City began with the goal to be an agent for change by being one of the first drama series to openly speak of HIV/AIDS. Audiences in South Africa have revelled in, laughed with, learned and been moved by Soul City.
Everybody remembers when Patrick Shai was the cause of disdain in the Soul City community. Together, the community stood and banged pots in the streets in protest of his abusive behaviour. Or Sister Bettina as the loving matriarch who brought healing and support to many in Soul City.
Soul City has truly been a successful medium for both entertainment and education. Education drama, the world over has often had a limited shelf life, but Soul City has kept going for 21 years and continues to grow.
There have been many memorable years on the show, but this year brings together the old spirit of Soul City and the new vigour of a new era in Soul City.
Soul City 12 merges the old and the new to create a refreshing and powerful message of change and responsibility. The aptly placed broadcast of the series, speaks to the series' growth and understanding that true change can only take place if communities work together to bring about that change.
The series pays homage to the power and impact of the series by bringing back recognised and loved characters, like Sister Bettina (Lillian Dube), Sol Grootboom (David Dennis) and Nomfundo Dladla (Sindi Dlathu).
Soul City 12 also brings young new faces to the screen, including Nunu Khumalo as Riri, Phila Mazibuko as AB, Tau Maserumule as Murakes and Malizo Mdekazi as Humphrey.
Some of the characters from Season 11 have also been brought back including Sis'Noni (Florence Masebe), Samkelo (Robert Mpisi) and Mandla (Siyanda Sesimani).
The series premise is anchored on the idea of "I am because you are" / "Motho ke motho ka batho". An individual can prosper, only when those around him/her are doing well and are also ok. True community is what drive change.
The young can learn from the old, and the old can learn from the young.
World of the Story
Soul City 12 tells the story of a seemingly functional peri-urban community; content with its existence.
The inhabitants of Soul City have a kaleidoscope of experiences, needs and abilities. There used to be a greater sense of community and cohesion, but because life has dealt some of the people, especially the youth, a very harsh blow, mistrust and apathy have kicked in.
They feel a chasm has formed between those wanting change, and those who don't. Disenfranchisement, lack of power, lack of information, dreams deferred, poverty, disconnection have led to the youth contentedly going by and not caring if their neighbour was OK. Times are too hard to care about each other.
In this same world, however, there are young people who see the worth and possibility inherent in this community. There are nurses in the community health facility who still believe in their oath. There are doctors and specialists who work with pride. There are young people who have discovered they can contribute to their community by being part of a community health worker's programme.
Post-democratic Soul City also brought many achievements: a functioning local clinic, a district hospital, tarred roads, running water and electricity.
The world of our story is one where the youth constantly grapple and navigate the dichotomy between community and individual needs.