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The TVSA Interview: Duma Ndlovu

Written by Tashi from the blog Interviews on 02 Jun 2011
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Duma 1

Two Fridays ago Muvhango creator Duma Ndlovu was awarded an honorary PhD in English from the University of Venda.

My impression of him has always been that he doesn't do a lot of interviews, often choosing to stay behind-the-scenes. He has an air of elusiveness to him - you only seem to hear what he's said through hearsay or a third party, instead of what he has to say himself.

When I heard the news that he was receiving his doctorate I thought it would be a perfect time for us to chat to him directly to find out more - and to ask the questions I've wondered about Muvhango. I caught up with him after the ceremony:

Tashi: What does it mean to be an honorary recipient?
Duma: It means that the institution feels that the body of work encompasses such stature that you're equivalent to somebody who's studied for a PhD.

In a body of study, you do your BA and your Masters and then you do your doctoral thesis or dissertation, so this time around they wave all of those things and award you a Doctor of Philosophy degree, this particular one was in English.

Tashi: So it's like your body of work is your thesis?
Duma: Exactly, it's like your dissertation over the years.

Duma 2
On the set of Muvhango.

Tashi: It's interesting that it's in English and not for Drama - why?
Duma: It's the English department that decided that the plays that I've written - interestingly my plays are in English - so the University of Venda has said that most of my work has empowered the efforts to make people more literate in the English langauge.

For instance, one of the things that they cited is Muvhango and the multiplicity of the languges in it: English, Venda and other languages. Also, that the subtitles in English have helped the literacy rate among black people quite considerably.

I thought that was quite interesting because we never think of it like that. You never think that you'd increase the potential of people being able to read English with subtitles.

Duma 3

Tashi: What's your personal relationship with English?
Duma: *laughs* I've never been asked that question before. I always say to people: "English is my eighth language so I'm allowed to mess up."

My relationship with it really started when I was a kid, in the township, when I went to school and I was introduced to the language. My view is that English forced it's way into my consciousness as some kind of a first or second langauge because I've found myself communicating with everyone else who is non-Zulu, in the English language.

Also, inadvertently, from when you're in high school, you kind of subconsciously start moving towards English. At the age of 19 I joined a newspaper called The World, which is now The Sowetan and I wrote in the English language.

Throughout my years as a journalist I wrote in the English language. The body of work that I've read, 90% of the books that I've read have been in English - and believe me I've read books in my life. I don't even know how many I've read.

So English took over the subconscious from my own home langauge, to the extent that at my age - I'm over 50 - most of my work and communication is in the English language. It's not by design but it's by default.

What's my relationship with the language? I think I'm in some kind of forced marriage with it. English and I are stuck with each other.

Duma 4

Tashi: How do you see English in South African culture?
Duma: Interestingly - and I said this my speech (at the doctorate ceremony) - circumstances have forced English to be our stepmother. In order to educate anyone who is not within your home language, you have to use English, to communicate with anyone who doesn't speak your language you have to use it.

Some of us as Africans would prefer it if we had a common African langauge that we could use to communicate but we do not, and English has become the predominant langauge.

Inadvertantly, 80% of the communication that happens within the literary community happens in English. I use more English than I use Zulu - not that that is preferred, not that one is boasting.

You know, we grew up in a culture where educated Africans used to boast about the fact that they're educated and the fact that they're literate but some of us, I am an African Nationalist, I am one who advocates an African aesthetic, however, as much as you advocate an African aesthetic, you use that body of English in the advocacy.

It's a relationship that is there, you can't do anything about it and it's a relationship that you then use and say: "Let me use it for the positive, to advance the causes that I'm doing,"  rather than bemoan the fact that we communicate in English.

Duma 10

Tashi: Before Muvhango started, what made you decide to do the show?
Duma: My first major responsibility I thought, was to come up with a drama that would communicate the African consciousness, so that's what I wanted to do.

I wanted a drama that would say to Africans: "We are Africans and what is our place in society?" Very interesting then that one would come up with a Venda drama to communicate that.

The only way you could communicate an African perspective in the days when we came up with Muvhango was to challenge Africans because most of the stories we told then were American wannabes - I used to call them The Bold and the Beautiful, people wanting to be American.

We wanted to do a story that spoke to Africans in a language that they understood. The only way to do this was to compare African and Western values and traditions and to embody that we created an African man who had two wives, at a time when South Africa didn't have a consititution yet.

That's extremely important because when Nelson Mandela was president he asked Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer to create a new constitution and he said: "People need to be considerate of the fact that Africans have a way of life."

Suddenly women in polygamous relationships had to be taken into consideration so our story centred round a man who had a woman who lived in Soweto, who was the Western, modern wife married by Western law; and a woman who was in Venda, married by traditional rights.

By having these women fight against each other we were pitting African traditions against Western values - and that's how the drama was conceived.

duma_20
Filming Thandaza's wedding earlier this year: 14 years after the premiere.

Tashi:
With your first language being Zulu - why isn't it a Zulu drama?
Duma: The organisation that is today known as ICASA, it was called IBA then, they called on the SABC to start featuring mariginalised languages.

I saw a gap, Zulu is not a marginalised langauge, in fact, Zulu is the majority language in South Africa so I then decided to write in the smallest South African langauge, Tshivenda, because I was familiar with it.

I'd learnt it as a child and I was familiar with the cultures. I thought it would make an impact, and it did so the reading of the situation was quite correct.

Duma 4

Tashi: When it first started, did you write the whole script solo?
Duma: Ja, for the first 52 episodes I was the only writer. There were 13 episodes, then another 13, then 26.

Tashi: Then it extended to a team?
Duma: It became 104 episodes after the first 52, that's when we went to other writers.

Tashi: Are you still involved in the storylines?
Duma: Yes I'm still involved in the storylining, I come up with some of the stories and I also look at all the stories in terms of their relevance and whether they work in the Muvhango aesthetic. I still meet with the writers, attend their meetings, discuss things with them and some of the storylines are mine.

Tashi: Your official title ... you'll now be Dr?
Duma: *laughs* Well, I have been given the honour, that if I want to, I can put Dr in front of my name.

Tashi: Yes I think you should - you can do it to get stuff. People always do stuff for you if you say: "I'm Dr so-and-so."
Duma: *laughs* But I'm not that kind of a person. *laughs* I believe in working for what you get. Which is why I'm going back to school, I'm going to finish my Masters degree - I did a Masters degree and I didn't finish - after finsihing I'll see if I'll do a doctorate, another doctorate.

Tashi: Then you'll be Dr-Dr. What else will you be getting up to next?
Duma: I'm a storyteller so I'll keep telling stories but I've decided to dedicate my life to teaching young people acting and bringing it to their realisation that they need an education so I'm planning to start an acting academy, which is what will consume most of my time.

I'll continue to write but I'd like to start an academy where we take the acting fratenity to another level in South Africa.

Ends



34 Comments

S.K
02 Jun 2011 07:38

Reading.......................................................

S.K
02 Jun 2011 07:57

Zulu is the majority language in South Africa so I then decided to write in the smallest South African langauge, Tshivenda,.... brilliant idea and it worked! Glad he is not a typical Zulu,m Zulu but still!

Which is why I'm going back to school, I'm going to finish my Masters degree - I did a Masters degree and I didn't finish - after finsihing I'll see if I'll do a doctorate, another doctorate. This man is serious about studying eish, at the age of over 50!!!!

"English is my eighth language so I'm allowed to mess up."....  Eighth!!!! tltltltltlt





botselicpus
02 Jun 2011 08:04

nice one. Duma deserve it. i think i should be one of ur students.

vinc
02 Jun 2011 08:21

You are so right by getting involved with the writers and checking the relevance of the story line,otherwise pple will be crying over Muvhango as the lost soapie like other soapies we know.

Iyashisa Muvhango, i like, i like.

Tashi
02 Jun 2011 08:38

Hey everyone, an interesting extra something ... I've just chatted to Duma to ask about the spelling of his name - as you may have noticed, it's spelt differently everywhere: Duma ka Ndlovu or Ka Ndlovu or ka-Ndlovu.

Turns out Duma's preference for it is not to have the ka as part of it - he said that people always insist on using it but that his preference is without it.

S.K
02 Jun 2011 08:43

So Duma Ndlovu it is!!!!

zvee
02 Jun 2011 08:48

Tjo!! Lo tata uyasthand' isgela nhe... Well deserved tat' uNdlovu. I wish I had his stamina 4 books, mna still thinking to go back 2 schl, you know moss 1st there is a thought 2nd own confirmation 3rd planning then 4th actually application & registering 2 me that's like 2yrs of thinking....

What a down to earth man, so intelligent, kodwa ke from now on he must stop firing his cast haybo, well that's what we hear.

The General
02 Jun 2011 08:54

Interesting, so inspirational, Mfundi Vundla could learn a lesson or two from Duma, especially the relevance part...

u4me
02 Jun 2011 08:57

"circumstances have forced English to be our stepmother". very true observation from this humble guy. thanks Duma for put venda language and culture on the limelight. 

my only question is, why is kissing forbidden on Muvhango, you are killing this actors, you can see they are dying to smooch each other. Vendas does kiss each other,lol 

Mrs Chix
02 Jun 2011 08:57

he is doing a goood job

Green.arrow
02 Jun 2011 09:00

 Its been a while since i enjoyed an interview...this was great.
If anyone based on his body of work deserves an honorary doctorate its him , but so cool that he wants to earn the title properly. good man!...inspirational man!...he should do more interviews...or a documentary one day.
All the very best with the masters and with the phd and the academy in future

zvee
02 Jun 2011 09:13

Cheesa, welcome to Isidingo... In agreeing with what you all say abt Muvhango being good.  I've got coloured friends who also watch the show and when we r talking abt it you could here that they watched it way back ngela xesha lo Edward and Mashudu.

ntoko
02 Jun 2011 09:25

I reali enjoy Muvhango especially lately u go Mr Duma Ka Ndlovu u deserve it baba

princess1
02 Jun 2011 09:30

Nice interview Tashi.

Ntate Duma is really doing a great job, i'm starting to enjoy Muvhango. I agree with The General, Mfundi can learn a thing from him.

S.K
02 Jun 2011 09:36

Mfundi Vundla could learn a lesson or two from Duma...... Very True

lejazz
02 Jun 2011 10:05

Wow!!! I have to applaud UNIVEN(I am an alumni) for recognizing Duma and also a big congrats to Dr. Duma.

I think these days Dr. Duma and his team have indeed brought back that oomph Muvhango had when it started back then. I have resumed watching the show religiously and I have to say big up for the massive revamp on the storyline all things.

The problem that I have with Muvhango now is their subtitling...sometimes their subtitles do not correspond to what is being said. I know it can't always correspond but they must at least try something very very close to what is being said.

lejazz
02 Jun 2011 10:11

@u4me..Vendas does kiss each other,lol ....We do not kiss in public that's why Muvhango is avoiding that segment in all aspect

@Cheesa....Phathu the head writter and team....yeah absolutely right

VusiK
02 Jun 2011 10:13

He's great ... and very personable ...

zvee
02 Jun 2011 10:19

@lejazz, practise makes perfect bhuti like they say it, that'ds the way to go..lol.. Let's ol follow u on saying Dr. Ndlovu from now on...

u4me
02 Jun 2011 10:53

@ Lejazz, you are spot on about vendas not kissing in public, infact its very rare. now i understand Dr Duma position about kissing on set.

i bet my last donkey, offset this guys make up for what they are missing out on-set, *just thinking*lol

pitch
02 Jun 2011 11:39

Well done Tashi, wonderful interview and thanx to u Duma Ndlovu for being the down to earth man he is....

Anol@
02 Jun 2011 11:47

@ u4me

"my only question is, why is kissing forbidden on Muvhango, you are killing this actors, you can see they are dying to smooch each other. Vendas does kiss each other,lol "

True, i have also been wondering why they do not show kissing scenes. Muvhango is still very conservative. But i still love it though.

VusiK
02 Jun 2011 11:52

The lack of kissing is to stop the movie declining into the facsimile of the American Soap Drama model of soft-porn , debauchery, and other social ills that in excess, kill the rest of the story ...

Go across to other soapies and see how excess in sex destroys the quality of the story.

He is not interested in building a story high on fizzle and low in quality ...

He wants your attention, and intends to keep it without resorting to the American model of unsustainable attention.

VusiK
02 Jun 2011 12:11

Duma understands DRAMA ... He is maintaining your attention without resorting to using overt sexuality displays as a tool ...It takes great skill not to cross that line ... He should be complimented for achieving this without compromise!

Green.arrow
02 Jun 2011 12:17

You are right Vuss...I find the non-kissing muvhango situation refreshing, i can live with it. But for a reason thats not because they dont kiss, i cant watch muvhango for more than 10 minutes.

MaWiNiZa
02 Jun 2011 12:24

i love the fact that he is still studying..i love people who study.

TerryN
02 Jun 2011 12:25

seems interesting...brb!

VusiK
02 Jun 2011 12:29

I don't watch ... but I understand his formula ... and he is rather candid about it ...

@MaWiniza ... He is a consummate learner hey ... Always researching & his continued studies help him to remain open minded in what he wishes to present to you ... his audience.

He is one of the few people in show Biz I am comfortable sitting with ... I do not like the showbiz types ... Too narcissistic for my tolerance!

Porsch
03 Jun 2011 14:13

I dont understand, why are you guys saying Mfundi should learn something from Duma??? Me very confused>>>>

Is this the same Mfundi that started Generations back in 1994 when the word democracy was not even in our vocab?? The same man that has over 4 million viewership?

Why do we always demean people??  Every soapie has its bad seasons, there were/are times when some of you didnt even watch Muvhango, black people come one, when is this PDS gonna end???

mbulela
03 Jun 2011 14:53

very good interview.well done Tashi.
These are the kind of people our society should be celebrating not boring my live with 100 articles of Connie,awards to one hit wonders who are more versatile in bed than on any musical instrument or even 100 articles of Khanyi Mbau and senseless quotes from Malema and his ANC brothers.
These are the kind of heroes our society needs.
An example of discipline, comittment and talent.



On another note, it is amazing that Muvhango is not resorting to all the kissing and smooching but has our rapt attention and loyalty,yet even with all the kissing and smooching Generubbish sucks.

mbulela
03 Jun 2011 15:05

@porsh, no one is pulling Mfundi down.
Gen has been rubbish for too long.this is not about a bad season.This is a bad life.
It is because we believe in him and know that he and his team are capable of so much more, that is why we complain.

pammie25
03 Jun 2011 15:09

No PruLuv, he's not related to Mfundi.

I wish I was as smart as my uncle!!!

Maokeng Thabang
05 Sep 2012 14:09

ooh!Dr Ndlovu,you are so much brilliant and also naturally interllected.so there is this one thing i would like to know,actually it's being a while when i need assistance and hope you'll have positive responds.i'm willing to cast on Muvhango and don't know what to do,i came at SABC this year on January and never got an assistance regarding casting on Muvhango,so i'm willing to be helped:what should i do?i promise to do everything that i'll be required to do.HELP PLEASE

Maokeng Thabang
05 Sep 2012 14:11

you can email me: maokeng.thabang@ovi.com


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