Producers Thishiwe Ziqubu and Bridget Pickering continue to hit it hard outside the ball park with Emoyeni. When some of us were tired of the melodrama that is en vogue in our local TV scene, it's refreshing to have a series explore African mythology, love and womanhood in a contemporary setting.
Episode 3: Intombi Yangale raises the ante and gives us our first "sad ending". Let's dig in...
Intombi Yangale is written and directed by Thishiwe Ziqubu, starring the hip hop artist /actress Mandisa Nduna (Between Friends, She is King) and the comedian Ebenhaezar Dibakwane (Catching Feelings), who take the leading roles of a celestial/elemental Zen and her main crush Zion. Yes, there's a Ying and Yang vibe even from the names.
The love story kinda reminded me of City of Angels - the Meg Ryan / Nicolas Cage melodrama, with an Angel falling in love with a mere human with a touch of the Little Mermaid, a dash of Mamlambo and some Water Spirits/Elementals thrown in for good measure. The hippies amongst us and the devout African spiritualist must have been in nirvana watching this.
Thishiwe and her team mine the African iconography well, from the spiritual world being based in water with beings dressed as MaZion in white - yes, like the ones we see along the rivers and mountains on Sundays - to the urban black-hipster-look of the two leads.
This extends to the bohemian-haired-I'm-the-arty-type-from-Maboneng-in-Zion to the I'm-deeply-spiritual-but-edgy-tattooed-Zen (whose tattoos are actually Nduna's real tattoos cleverly incorporated into the story).
The episode shows us a cool fusion of urban, hip SA with mythological and traditional African that goes beyond costumes but also into story ideas - without coming across as superficial nor corny.
Zen falls in love with Zion 'cause he's a musician whose music touches her. Great art is a spiritual experience, it touches your inner soul.
With Zen being a spiritual being, it makes sense that she would fall for an artist who is able to convey greater knowledge than he is aware of through his music.
It's a pity that due to the 1-hour format, the love thing happens a tad bit too quickly for me… couldn’t totally buy that a being like Zen would just risk everything after an hours encounter, but that's just me, I'm dark and demented.
Yet I loved how this episode embraces the darkness… especially given our times; what's happening around rape culture, femicide and patriarchy.
With this I'm not just referring to having poor Zen raped by Zion's friend but even the significance of having something pure such as love, and even art, being basterdised by men.
Zen's relationship with Zion makes Zion a better musician but not a better person. His ego alienates the one person that actually helped him find his groove and he uses it to go for the next pretty girl and eventually chase away the person who helped him reach his next level.
At what price?
Zen loses out on the ancestral /spiritual plain 'cause you can't do the hanky panky and stay pure (still have issues with this thinking) but she could also represent what happens to a lot of women (and good people in general).
We get into relationships with the purest of intentions but at times it’s the very thing we love that leads to our own demise, but what are we to do? Choose wisely? Scrutinize our choices as the PSA once said? Stay within our blissful and holy trajectories?
I love that Intombi Yangale does not give us the answer and leaves you, the viewer, to decide…
just like the ending… one has to decide: did Zen commit suicide at the end or get a second chance with the spiritual world? - and I daresay the answer says more about you than the episode itself.
Which is a great thing to have a local TV series that is constantly having a conversation with the audience on the meaning of life, love and everything else. It helps that it has great talent in front of the screen. The two leads are not just beautiful but deliver a stellar performance (it's not a bad thing that they're both easy on the eye).
The production quality of the series and episode continues to impress; the camera unit, the production design, the script and directing is on steroids.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a start of a variation that is not afraid to engage us not just with the salacious but also the meaningful content.
Well done SABC and the team behind Emoyeni … you guys are giving us hope. Pity it came at poor Zen's happiness and being... great job though.
* iRubbish nje ** ya zama-nyana ***if you really dont have anything better ****we cooking with gas
***** record, set reminder and block of you calender