Tsha Tsha is a South African educational youth drama series produced by Curious Pictures and CADRE (Centre for AIDS Development, Research and Evaluation) which follows the lives of young people in the fictional rural Eastern Cape town of Lubusi, as they negotiate the big issues of life – love, sex and relationships.
In the dusty streets of this impoverished rural town, the series follows the lives of four 20-somethings as they negotiate a bumpy course along the path to adulthood.
And although the characters don't live in the big city, they certainly deal with big issues: AIDS, death, love, relationships, and sex and its consequences.
DJ, Viwe, Andile and Boniswa appear to have very little in common.
DJ is the brash immature city boy with nothing but contempt for the rural hicks who populate Lubusi. Andile carries a heavy burden of family responsibilities and financial worries. Viwe, the richest girl in town, has been bred on indulgence and money, while Boniswa is an introspective and intelligent young woman whose imagination populates the pages of romantic novels.
But when an ambitious dance teacher starts a Latin Dancing club, these four young adults find an unexpected area of common interest.
The sensual moves of Latin dancing set the backdrop for their journeys through personal relationships, sexuality and, ultimately, love.
The series deals with serious issues in a light-hearted way, focusing on the universe of young people living in a world affected by HIV/Aids.
The rural context was chosen as it allows for the exploration of issues relating to community life including the marginalization of youth, and creates an appropriate setting for a character-based drama dealing with personal and social transformation.
The setting is also uniquely different from the predominantly urban orientation of most South African television youth drama.
Themes include: addressing HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, support and rights; relationships and sexuality; life skills and problem-solving including gender relations, parent-child relationships, addressing addictions such as alcoholism and gambling, addressing violence, legal issues, entrepreneurship and community mobilisation.
Ballroom dancing is used as an organising concept in the drama and a ballroom dance club provides a metaphoric background for exploring relationships, mutual respect and intimacy.
"Dance is like life. You come here to learn to dance, but what you will learn is how to live. How to rise above the everyday, to a place of beauty, life and light. Right. In a circle. Big circle. We start to dance by learning to walk." - Extract from Episode 1, Season 1
Tsha Tsha was produced for SABC Education by the Centre for AIDS Development, Research and Evaluation (CADRE) and Curious Pictures. It was funded by USAID through Johns Hopkins University Health Communications Partnership, which also provided funding support for research on the series.
Harriet Gavshon and David Jammy from Curious Pictures and Warren Parker from CADRE were the Executive Producers of Tsha Tsha.
All the principal actors grew up in the Eastern Cape and are familiar with the language and texture of a small town. Producer Lumko Dukashe and many of the crew are also from the Eastern Cape, and kept a watching brief on authenticity and the use of language.
Tsha Tsha had numerous directors, including Tim Greene, Shaft Moropane, Rolie Nikiwe and Catherine Stewart. Director of Photography on Tsha Tsha was Mike Downie.
Witers on the series included Tim Greene, David Jammy, Harriet Gavshon, Rolisizwe Nikiwe, Catherine Stewart, Gary Herselman, Nadine Zylstra and Thapelo "Joy" Pelo.
The original score was by Loyiso Bala and Su Lubner.
It is broadcast in Xhosa, with English subtitles.