uGugu no Andile (Gugu and Andile) is a South African mini-series adapted from Romeo and Juliet by Minky Schlesinger and Lodi Matsetela as part of the SABC1 "Shakespeare in Mzansi" strand, a collection of mini-series which contemporise various works of Shakespeare into a South African context.
It is the third of four mini-series which aired on SABC1 on Tuesdays, from 11 March to 19 August, 2008. The others are Entabeni (Macbeth), Izingane zoBaba (King Lear) and Death of a Queen (also Macbeth).
uGugu no Andile premiered on SABC1 on Tuesday 3 June 2008, at 20h30, replacing Izingane zoBaba in the timeslot. There are six half-hour episodes in the series.
When two passionate young people from opposite sides of the political divide fall in love in war-torn Thokoza, they must risk life and limb to be together. It is only through their tragic deaths that a conflicted community begins to heal.
uGugu no Andile is a love-story set against the backdrop of the war that raged through South Africa's townships in the early 1990s. It tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers, unlucky enough to be born into families on opposite sides of the political and cultural divide.
Gugu, a sweet and innocent 16-year old, comes from a Zulu-speaking family, while Andile, 18 and equally ready for love, comes from a family steeped in the Xhosa tradition.
It is 1993, a year before the first democratic elections, and the township of Thokoza is a hotbed of political violence, carved up between supporters of the two main political parties. Young people have become hardened survivors of battle.
Although many schoolchildren are actively engaged in the war, our heroine has no interest in politics. Gugu's passion is for drum majorettes and the ordinary pursuits of teenage life. Firmly under the protective wing of her mother, Gugu is ready to break out.
Things are set in motion when she meets Andile, an attractive and confident youth, a genuine romantic with a reputation as a player when it comes to the girls.
Like Gugu, Andile has no interest in politics. His particular focus is social photography, from which he makes a modest living. Andile is seldom without the camera bought for him by doting parents - parents who could never have anticipated the dire consequences of their loving gift.
In the tradition of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the protagonists meet and fall in love at first sight, unable to resist the power of the attraction between them. This is first love at its most powerful, and the bond between the lovers is unbreakable.
It is a bond, however, that is thoroughly disapproved of by the rest of the community. In the prevailing climate it is forbidden for two people from such different backgrounds to form a connection.
Gugu and Andile, although aware of the dangers, trust that love will conquer all. Unfortunately this is not to be. Death lies around every corner in Thokoza.
Accusations of treason and treachery are on the people's lips, and AK47s and well-sharpened machetes are in the hands of impulsive youth. Young men with cameras, able to record the actions of others, are at a premium.
The war, with its cultural differences and associated political allegiances, encroaches on Gugu and Andile's lives and, in spite of their resistance, they become deeply embroiled.
As in the original Romeo and Juliet, they will both lose loved ones and go through flame and fire for the sake of their love.
After the elections of 1994 the miracle of reconciliation will happen in South Africa, but Gugu and Andile will not be there to see it.
Reconciliation is a miracle that requires constant renewal...
(16 – speaks township isiZulu)
Pretty but shy, Gugu is a girl with the hopes, fears and dreams of teenagers everywhere. Her misfortune is to be a normal sixteen year-old, born into abnormal times. She does not want to be a hero, in a time that requires heroes.
Gugu lives in Thokoza during the early 1990s, just prior to the first democratic elections, a time of intense violence and political strife.
Gugu is a good and diligent pupil at school, her immediate aim being to get Matric, but her current passion is drum majorettes. It is at majorette practice that she feels truly alive and overcomes her shyness.
Her daily life is filled with the usual chores of a township teenager - washing, cleaning, making food, but Gugu spends every available minute at the Thokoza Community Hall, learning to twirl a baton and high-step in synch with her troop.
Gugu's journey is set in motion when she meets Andile, and falls hopelessly in love with him. By the time the series ends she will have found the courage to leave her safety zone, and put herself on the line for the sake of her love.
Her innocence is her strongest quality, unfortunately it is also her downfall.
Character Description: Beautiful, Innocent, Determined and Strong
(18 – speaks township isiXhosa)
Andile has a chiselled, sensitive face and a quick mind. Since getting Matric, he has spent his time pursuing his hobby of photography, turning it into a means of survival.
Andile is an apolitical romantic. Being a photographer contributes much to Andile's popularity with the young women of Thokoza and he is fully aware of this fact.
Andile has grown up in a loving home. He knows what love is, and is ready to throw himself headlong into it. At first, Andile believes that Love can conquer all. As the story progresses, love draws him deeper and deeper into the conflict and he will learn much about life, love and sacrifice.
Character Description: Sharp, Artisitic, Edgy, and Driven
Busisiwe 'Busi' Dlamini
(40 – speaks township isiZulu)
Gugu's mother, Busi, is a strict disciplinarian, but her discipline is born of love. She is terrified that Gugu, the apple of her eye, will become involved in the 'troubles' of Thokoza.
Busi has seen it all: the violence bred from despair, the illness that poverty brings. The early loss of her husband, the constant battle of living under apartheid, and her work as a charlady in the suburbs, have worn her down.
The strict hand she keeps on her daughter is due to the fact that she feels herself to be an 'absent mother', even though she has always refused domestic jobs that entailed 'sleeping in'.
Busi is staunchly Zulu, but in a contemporary way, and has no interest in party politics. Her primary need is for Gugu to take on her heritage, and become a good Zulu woman.
Character Description: Disciplinarian, Widower and Open-Minded
Elizabeth 'Ma'Lizzie' Ndaba
(56 - speaks rural isiZulu, but does use township phrases)
She's Gugu's caregiver and confidante. She is one of Busi Dlamini's relatives, who came up from rural KwaZulu to help look after little Gugu, after Busi's husband died.
Ma'Lizzie is a kindly, soft figure who hates the violence all around her, done in the name of her traditions. Nonetheless she believes strongly that her culture needs to be sustained.
Character Description: Kind, Caring and Giving
(21 - speaks rural isiZulu in the style of men from the hostels)
Mandla is Gugu's cousin on her late father's side. He grew up in rural KwaZulu, and left school in Standard 7 to help earn money for the family.
He drinks to drown his frustration and anger. His one hope is the pride he takes in his own culture.
He is an ardent Zulu traditionalist, turning his anger on members of the comrades of the Self-Defence Units of Thokoza, whom he hunts down as his 'prey'.
Since Gugu's father is dead, and being the oldest male member of the Dlamini clan in Thokoza, Mandla has taken on the role of Gugu's mentor. As an antagonist, Mandla's central problem is his belief that men rule the world.
Add this to a hot temper, and Mandla's path towards his own destruction is predictable.
Character Description: Antagonistic, Hot-Tempered and Destructive
(19 – speaks township isiXhosa)
Bullet, is a fierce member of a Self-Defence Unit (SDU) in Thokoza. He is an underhand little weasel with a terrible thirst for power and a violent streak.
Bullet is clever, but sneaky and suspicious to the point of paranoia, believing that everyone is a potential traitor.
Men who have a strong sense of themselves cause fear and jealousy in this sorry excuse for a man, and Andile, with his beauty and intelligence, is a prime target for Bullet's envy.
His surest way to impress others and demonstrate strength is to show that he is prepared to kill.
Character Description: Power-Hungry, Sneaky and Paranoid
(50-ish - speaks township isiXhosa with a slightly classical bent)
He is a priest with a strong need to effect reconciliation in Thokoza. Bishop Mbengashe was very active during the struggle years, often hiding comrades from the security police. He is a former liberation theology believer.
Now, the Bishop finds himself caught between the opposing forces of the SDUs and the hostel-dwellers, and is hard-pressed to find a way to cope.
Character Description: Liberal and Visionary
Ras Bennie Ngubeni
(24 - speaks English with a Rasta slant, and some isiZulu)
A close friend to Andile, Ras Bennie is a young Rastafarian with fried brains and a broad sense of freedom. Ras Bennie is not interested in political solutions to conflict but focuses on dreams and visions.
He runs a fruit stall at a market for a living, but his entire being is focused on peace and the defeat of Babylon.
Character Description: Entrepreneur, Visionary with “Fried Brain” and Philosophical
uGugu no Andile was produced by Luna Films for SABC1.
Director of Photography
Left to right: Khutso (Zolisa Xaluva )and Andile (Litha Booi)
Left to right: Andile (Litha Booi) and Gugu (Lungelo Dhladhla)
Left to right: Patricia (Thandy Matlaila), Andile (Litha Booi) and Gugu (Lungelo Dhladhla)