iNkaba is a South African telenovela created by John Kani and produced by Urban Brew Studios and set in the glamorous but fickle South African fashion industry, depicting South Africa's social landscape that includes the very rich and powerful, the upwardly striving middle-class and the struggling poor.
The series originally aired on DStv's Mzansi Magic channel from 19 March, 2012 to 14 March, 2013. New episodes broadcast from Mondays to Thursdays at 20h30.
It later aired on DStv's Mzansi Wethu channel from 7 May, 2013 to 1 May, 2014. New episodes broadcast from Mondays to Thursdays at 20h30, although the series ended with a double bill at 20h00 on Thursday 1 May, 2014. There are 208 half-hour episodes in the series.
See "Seasons" below for seasonal broadcast dates and times.
What if you have to relinquish your pride to get what you desire?
The narrative for iNkaba is built on two major love stories: the past relationship between Mkhuseli, Nomsa and Mzi, and the present love relationship between their respective children Kwezi and Nothando.
Through the love story between Kwezi and Nothando, featuring their trials and tribulations as they come together, split apart, fall in love with other people while always remaining aware of their mutual attraction for one another, we witness how a love triangle that should have remained locked in the past is brought back to haunt their parents, and also set Kwezi and Nothando up to repeat that sad story.
The two lead characters and their parents are now challenged to sacrifice, each in their own way, their pride in order to give their desire a chance to be fulfilled... or not.
Through the construct of the telenovela love story, namely, a poor but beautiful girl falls in love with handsome rich man, the series explores the theme of art versus commercialism which leads to the universal truth: fulfilling your desire against all odds doesn't always buy you happiness.
John Kani is the fierce patriarch whose home in Westcliff, Johannesburg harbours a myriad of secrets, lies and fear behind the veil of power and pride.
Nakedi Ribane plays a conflicted mother who has to make some hard choices. Ernest Ndlovu's iNkaba character needs to make ends meet in Diepkloof and model Nompilo Gwala plays a young woman who has to find her feet – and true self – in a world where pride and desire reigns.
The characters that inhabit this world soon realise that fulfilling their desires at all costs does not necessarily bring happiness and that there are ties that forever bind you to your past.
In contrast to the ongoing open-ended storylines of a soap, with characters coming and going along with the plot's twists and turns, a telenovela has a clear beginning, middle and end… and numerous cliff-hangers in between.
The characters are multi-dimensional and the cast remains the same for the duration of the series.
A team of M-Net executives visited Brazil where they took note of the huge potential of the format for the South African television landscape.
Their positive feedback was followed by intensive market research and an invitation to producers to pitch concepts for the Mzansi Magic telenovela.
iNkaba is an indigenous Nguni word encapsulating a sense of total interconnectivity. Literally it means navel, the central point: a point from which all energy, material and knowledge emerges and is recycled.
Amongst sacred traditional rites, there is the burial of the afterbirth and umbilical cord near the village. This mirrors in the traditional greeting "iNkaba yakho iphi?", translating directly to "where is your navel?"
The answer tells someone where you live, your clan affiliation, your social status, and it also holds a wealth of cultural information. Most importantly, it determines where you belong.
Mkhuseli Mthetho (John Kani)
Mkhuseli is a self-made man, charismatic and loyal. He is a staunch family man and when he feels betrayed by those he considers to be family, he becomes extremely dangerous.
He is controlling and ruthless. There are rumours that he has had hits put out on people, but up until now they are rumours. Mkhuseli is a decision maker and a law unto himself.
Whether he is right or wrong does not really matter to him. "The world according to Mkhuseli" is not up for debate: it is his only universe, and it changes according to his needs and desires.
Mkhuseli has a deep rooted reverence for his ancestors and believes that he is the fulfilment of their destiny. When things don't go his way, he worries about his ancestral link and seeks to have it cleared through traditional soothsayers.
Mkhuseli has some deep, unresolved fears. He fears that Nomsa may leave him when she comes in contact with Mzi. He fears that the dirty dealings he embarked on to get where his will be exposed and destroy him. He fears losing his money.
As a result he is almost pathologically secretive.
Nomsa Mthetho (Nakedi Ribane)
Nomsa is a charismatic and intelligent woman, who can also be domineering. She presents a cultured face to her husband and the world, and in private she is a mass of unexpressed thoughts and emotions.
What puts Nomsa in a class of her own besides being married to the Godfather of transport is her ability to match Mkhuseli's wealth with her grace and her unflagging love for her family.
She believes in her husbands' capabilities and she has stood by him at all cost. To some she's an enigma who has perfected a life of survival and settled well amongst the rich.
At the age of 12 Nomsa's father took on a second wife, leaving very little resources available for them to make their lives better. Her mother never did anything to resist the change instead she brought her children up without complaint.
Although he was present as a father, Nomsa knew in her heart that if she was ever to take any burden that came with marriage it would be with a wealthy man.
When she met and fell in love with Mzi Khumalo – she saw it was possible as he dreamed big and is well educated. But as time went on Mzi proved to be more of a planner than a doer.
Mkuseli, on the other hand, was driven to succeed. In spite of being with Mzi, Nomsa fell in love with Mkhuseli. Not only was he intensely ambitious, he too was running from poverty and wanted a better life than his childhood had provided.
They had a shared goal and what should she do now that it has been achieved? It troubles her that she has little else other than success and Kwezi in common with her husband.
Kwezi Mthetho (Dumisani Mbebe)
Kwezi is the handsome CEO of a growing fashion house. Kwezi is creative, expressive and naturally charming. He is also spoilt and irresponsible and easily influenced.
He loves fashion and epitomises it with his stylish clothes and urbane attitude to life. From an outsiders' perspective, Kwezi is a man born into wealth, now riding the crest of the new South African dream.
Kwezi is the object of both men and women's admiration and envy, an icon to many and a friend to few.
When we first meet him he's just taken a big financial risk which he believes will yield him huge financial results. He has also flown in the face of his father, transport magnate Mkhuseli Mthetho, by choosing to go into fashion as opposed to business.
As the story progresses we see that beneath Kwezi's charm lies an immature and uncalculated risk taker, with a predatory aspect to him when it comes to women.
Held at arm's length by his father, Kwezi struggled for Mkhuseli's approval and eventually gave up when it seemed clear it was never going to be forthcoming.
Kwezi has always had the support of his mother, Nomsa, who is the primary influence with regards to his love for fashion. Since his childhood it was her sense of fashion and style that intrigued him.
When his father objected to his decision to study as a designer, she stood up for him – even making sure that the money he needs is available when he needs it.
Thuli Malinga (Matshepo Maleme)
Thuli is a smart, streetwise young woman who is a loner. She has big ambitions and no real tools to achieve them. She is extremely loyal but can be unbending and ruthless.
Thuli is sexy with a street swag in her walk. She dresses for comfort and keeps it all simple. She's got a thing for big fast cars as these are a symbol of the status and wealth she desires.
She's naive in that she tends to give people the benefit of the doubt but if crossed she retaliates with a vengeance. So she is hiding a soft heart with a tough, cold exterior.
But her soft side is hidden very well: she lives by the code – you scratch my back and I might just look after yours. She strongly believes that if you plan on doing something, you have to do it well. She is seduced by wealth but wary of the wealthy. Her strength and audacity is admirable.
Thuli growing up didn't ask for much from her mother Florence nor did she get in her mother's way. She was reserved and never spoke until spoken to, Thuli was always a loner.
Bra Shakes came into her and her mother's lives when she was five years old at a time when she had decided that she was a Tomboy. Thuli roamed the streets causing trouble but nothing extreme. She loved reading; it offered her an alternative reality.
Mzi Khumalo (Ernest Ndlovu)
Mzi is an attractive middle-aged father figure with a sharp mind that never rests: he observes, he takes note of the small things and he never forgets the details.
His memory is his pride and joy, and also his downfall: he never forgets a wrong done to him, no matter how small.
Mzi believes that he was cheated out of having Nomsa as his lover and wife as well as a career in academia. He believes that in both cases, Mkhuseli is the man who was instrumental in these losses.
Mzi has a small but successful gas and coal delivery business. Mzi runs it efficiently and many people wonder what such an obviously intellectual man is doing running a delivery business.
Nothando Khumalo (Nompilo Gwala)
Nothando is a passionate and intelligent individual. She is so driven and so clear about what she wants that she becomes uncompromising and unforgiving because of it.
As long as she can remember Nothando has designed and made clothes – Aunt Lizzie has been her mentor and inspiration. Her intrinsic design style is romantic, feminine with a proudly South African signature trademark of flair and authenticity.
Nothando has warmth about her that is disarming even though her demeanour is that of a serious nature. She's quick to laugh off anyone who calls her a workaholic. However she is dedicated to her craft and will work long hours when she's inspired.
She doesn't compromise on perfection when it comes to her work and later this will filter in her love relationship.
Nothando consciously wants to make her family proud. She also wants recognition as a fashion designer. She has all the skills to be the best but her unwillingness to compromise on her very high standards might just be her downfall.
Nothando grew up knowing that her parents saved every cent to make things better for their children. Her parents supported her dream to be a fashion designer and against all odds made sure she studied her craft so she feels she has to show them it wasn't done in vain.
Lira Khumalo (Samkelo Ndlovu)
Lira is a gorgeous young woman who knows how to use her attributes to get ahead. She is sweet natured but without direction. Lira can also be tactless, disloyal and self-obsessed.
She feels alone without her mother and, in spite of her rash behaviour, ends up looking for security from others, hoping that someone somewhere will protect her from the darker aspects of life.
Lira has studied a few things in her three years at university, from drama, through marketing and presently she is studying Public Relations.
She wants to be a model, but her father does not believe it's a viable profession, so Lira has to study something that will keep her father happy. It's clear that her heart is not in her studies.
Lira grew up in a happy home. Her mother, Sophie was protective and caring, as is her father, Mzi. Lira however sometimes felt side-lined by her older sister.
Nothando was lucky to have had a mother for longer than her and Lira thinks that's why she is more confident and disciplined – but she is wrong as it is her personality that makes her different from Nothando.
But Lira still thinks that, because Nothando has always loved sewing and making things like her Aunt Lizzie did, and Sophie loved it too - it became an easy bond between mother and older sister.
Pascal Etana (Richard Lukunku)
Pascal is an asylum seeker from the DRC. He is handsome and unpretentious. He strives to be a good person and he is an optimist. Pascal believes that given a chance we are all good people and that even bad people have some goodness in them.
Because he had to flee his country under drastic circumstances Pascal has an intense need to belong and with the Khumalo family he feels he is on his way to achieving that.
Pascal is a man with a vision and that's what keeps him going. He has made it in South Africa because of his drive. When he started out it was tough but with persistence he survived.
He first worked as a car guard and then met up with Aunt Lizzie. They formed a friendship and later he rented a cottage at the back of her house. This is how he met Mzi and started working with him. Aunt Lizzie still takes a lot of verbal abuse from neighbours but she has never asked him to leave.
Pascal's love for Nothando is many folds – he loves her hunger to succeed and he loves her strong sense of what she believes in. He also loves the fact that she comes from a good family.
Family is important to Pascal but he hardly speaks about his own back home. He is quick to change the subject. As he starts to get closer to Nothando the truth starts to reveal itself.
Leo Miller (Jason Greer)
Leo is a charming and exuberant fashion show producer. He is good with people, hardworking and fiercely competitive.
Loyal to a chosen few and unreliable to many, Leo has commitment issues and has never had more than one girlfriend for longer than a month at a time – 10 days is his set limit and when it goes over that, he worries about his health.
He is an old school friend of Kwezi's and is immensely loyal to him. Leo loves pursuing women and usually has Kwezi right by his side.
Leo grew up in a middle class Johannesburg home where his parents encouraged his individuality. He was well educated and had opportunities as a young child to travel overseas.
His father is a high court judge and his mother a psychologist, so they were both involved in their own careers, leaving Leo and his sister to grow up largely alone and without many of the boundaries all the children need.
As a result Leo has a polished and sophisticated veneer but at heart is an irresponsible child. For Leo, the chase is what matters: chasing women, an ambition, a lifestyle.
He has no real long term plan other than he wants to be rich, live in luxury and have sex with lots of women, preferably older than him.
Elizabeth Morapama a.k.a. Aunty Lizzie (Charmaine Mtinta)
Aunt Lizzie is a streetwise woman that has always worked as a seamstress in a factory as well as making bridal dresses for her neighbours. She is outspoken and irreverent, often unaware that she is the source of amusement to others around her.
Aunt Lizzie is Sophie's youngest sister and favourite Aunt to Nothando and Lira. She started in the textile industry and was eventually trained to be a seamstress. She travelled and worked in a number of different places in South Africa, even in Lesotho.
Through-out her career she has always made and sold dresses in her personal capacity. Aunt Lizzie is the reason for Nothando's passion for fashion. Lira adores Aunt Lizzie because of her knack for calling a spade a spade – except when it is directed at her.
Aunt Lizzie has been working for Kwezi for two years and defends him when Mzi becomes insulting about the Mthetho family.
Aunt Lizzie has a fierce loyalty to Kwezi because he employed her after she had been retrenched for a number of years. As far as she's concerned she is Kwezi's company and takes on more responsibility for her job than is necessary. This amuses Kwezi and irritates MJ.
Aunt Lizzie has a low status job in name only, in reality she is a stalwart employee and enjoys a privileged position in the company.
Joseph Malinga a.k.a. Bra Shakes (Magic Hlatshwayo)
Bra Shakes runs Florence's shebeen, and is alcohol dependent. He is loyal and loving, but self-effacing and unreliable, a man of missed opportunities. Nothing he has ever aimed for has he achieved.
He is constantly coming up with half thought-through business plans that start with vigour and end up going nowhere.
Bra Shakes can go for long periods without drinking; he fights to be sober. When he falls off the wagon he does so badly. The results of this are usually dire; he is easily manipulated by the more underhand patrons. He can often find out the next day that he's given lots of rounds on the house, and no one is more appalled than he is.
Bra Shakes comes from a deeply neglected home and started drinking early with his mother. He is sensitive and smart, even though he is poorly educated.
He has a deep yearning to be cared for and to care for others. He masks this under a gruff exterior. He is not eloquent and can often be strict and overbearing with Thuli in the name of love.
MJ (Lumko Leqela)
MJ is creatively gifted and immensely hard working. He can also be intensely insulting in the name of creativity, a prima donna and even underhand in order to get his own way.
Known for his theatrics on the catwalk, MJ's creations are not only beautiful but also colourful and raw. He is flamboyant and the most loved diva in fashion.
MJ hails from Coronationville and knows how to make a woman feel like a goddess. He is on the cusp of huge success, and takes pains to make sure that everyone knows his status.
His creation and his shows speak for themselves but MJ will also not let you forget it. The one place you are sure to find MJ/KC dress is on the red carpet.
He prides himself as being the King of Sexy Elegance. Any woman who wears MJ/KC creation is sure to feel sexy.
Slindile Dludlu (Baby Cele)
Slindile is a loyal, hardworking and devoted cousin to Nomsa. She is also the mother of three children whom we hear about.
The children are largely grown up now but Slindile still supports some of their tertiary education. She has been an absent mother – forced to live away from them in order to earn a living.
Slindile is proud of her children and worries about them, but she is an emotionally distant mother. She is also fearful of being alone, scared to take emotional risks, and deeply uncomfortable with being the centre of attention. She has many unfulfilled desires, but none that she's prepared to do anything about anytime soon.
Slindile is the housekeeper to the Mthetho family. She is always immaculately dressed. No hair out of place and hardly raises her voice unless feeling pushed.
She's efficient and prides herself in knowing she's the only person who can recall in a second where everything is in the house. The Mthetho family just lives there, she runs the household.
Slindile shines in the kitchen. She won't let anyone cook for the family but her and besides - she's scared Florence might poison the whole family. It's an irrational fear, because Florence would never even think of poisoning anyone, but Slindile has trust issues.
Clara Louw (Janel Jordaan)
Because Clara is good at her job, MJ uses her as his confidante. She becomes his Muse during the series. She becomes so enamoured with him that all his opinions, loves and hates become hers too.
Clara has a playful nature, and it comes out with people like Aunt Lizzie. She is very sensitive to MJ's moods so if he's not in a good mood, Clara will hem that playful spirit in.
Miranda Simons (Ilse Klink)
In the fashion world Miranda is the She-God. She has the power to make designers great, or make them fall. She's a glamorous but functional woman. She believes that nurturing talent is her god given ability.
However, in nurturing others, she neglects to nurture herself. As a result she often finds herself in compromising relationships with men who don't even have half her intelligence or personality.
Miranda believes fashion is her destiny. She prides herself in having discovered or assisted designers who are now hailed as great. She has also broken down a few and for that she has no regrets – the industry can't afford mediocrity.
She is serious in nature, but also has empathy for young designers. She loves being the first to discover a designer and she appreciates if they acknowledge this in the media.
She loves media attention as it helps to grow the industry she is passionate about. She uses it to maintain the glamour image of fashion at whatever cost. But her private life is just that – private.
She's an enigma to the people who work with her and for her. She is ambitious not only for herself but for the designers in her stable. The one quality Miranda despises is weakness.
Florence Malinga (Ferry Jele)
Florence is curvaceous, simple in her makeup and a classic beauty. Her eyes are captivating and she has an amused look about her. She wanted to serve and be loved by a wealthy older man.
Nomsa adores Florence. She is hard working and never complains. She takes life in her stride and believes if she seen to be obeying the rules then she's home free.
Florence and Slindile have a silent war. For example, Florence refuses to wear a doek; she maintains it is oppressive.
Florence has a child-like approach on life which makes her endearing. Florence looks up to Nomsa and is very much inspired by her. One can see this when she runs her shebeen, often trying to behave like Nomsa.
JP van der Westhuizen (Robert Hobbs)
Jean Pierre, known by everyone as JP, is at first sight an unassuming man with a low self-esteem, who is eager to please. When one delves a little more, JP's ambition is revealed.
The desire to make money at any cost is the driving force of JP's life. What's not immediately apparent is that he will do almost anything to get there.
Jean Pierre was born and bred in Jo'burg. His father worked on the railways and he encouraged his son to get a trade behind his name. JP became a mechanic but his heart was never really in it.
He met and fell in love with Suzette – it was a whirlwind romance. They were married as soon as Suzette discovered she was pregnant.
When we meet him, JP is living in Triomf with his heavily pregnant wife, and eking out a meagre existence. Everyone, from his father to his wife accuses him of laziness, but JP isn't lazy.
Fate deals JP an ironic hand in the form of Mkhuseli and Mzi. For a white Afrikaner to go into business with black men in the 1980s was extremely unusual. However JP is motivated by fear and greed.
Allan Duncan (Alby Michaels)
Allan is a handsome and charismatic man who is intensely creative. He is also toxic due to the complex and unresolved issues in his life.
Allan has a design label, Jungle Fashions and a few years ago he was the talk of South Africa, designing funky street wear that sold like a storm. Miranda identified his talent and showcased it, supporting him heavily and even offering him financial aid.
Known for his temper and his sometimes erratic behaviour, at first Allan rode the crest of the wave as the bad boy darling. However as his bad boy reputation began to outweigh any new creative output, people gravitated away from him.
Allan was not able to maintain what he had created and is now on a downward spiral creatively. This has been exacerbated by his coke habit which escalates as his creativity dwindles.
Bingza (John Lata)
Bingza is a drunken, armchair philosopher and pseudo shrink. He is a loyal friend and would be a loving husband and father if he'd ever been sober enough to marry someone and produce a child. Bingza should be the principal of a school, but the bottle got him first.
Bingza grew up in Soweto, the son of two teachers. His father loved discourse and brought his son up to question life. Bingza managed to go to teachers training college but found it un-stimulating. However he got his Teaching Diploma and started to teach English.
When the apartheid government insisted all education be in Afrikaans, it broke Bingza's heart. Bingza loved English, and was immensely good at it.
He spent 20-odd years teaching and although he was an inspiration to many students, his increasing reliance on alcohol began to jeopardise his job. Ultimately he lost his teaching post and spends his days listening to the BBC world foreign service on the radio for international news.
Bingza takes an active interest in the world and can be surprisingly insightful about human nature too.
Mzansi Magic to debut local telenovela
There are 208 half-hour episodes in one season
Channel: Mzansi Magic | Premiere: 19 Mar 2012 | Finale: 14 Mar 2013 | Mon-Thu, 20h30
Channel: Mzansi Wethu | Premiere: 7 May 2013 | Finale: 1 May 2014 | Mon-Thu, 20h30