Mandla Dube’s Mapungubwe documentary strikes gold

2017-07-16 17:00

City Press TV review: Mapungubwe: Echoes in the Valley

SABC3 (DStv channel 193)

Sunday, 9.30pm

Rating: 5/5

To make a documentary about the ancient civilisation of Mapungubwe is not an easy thing. Not only is much of it couched in myth and legend, but bigoted views meant many denied the fact that black people could create such advanced civilizations. However, after its premiere last week, it’s clear that director Mandla Dube’s Mapungubwe: Echoes in the Valley rises above all this.

Dube’s ambitious three-part miniseries, filmed over a period of 10 years, creates the most exhaustive – but humane – exploration of this fascinating place yet attempted.

In the first episode, aired last week, the viewer is taken along the ride in Dube’s personal quest to discover the roots behind our current understanding of Mapungubwe – a place that has so much more to it than the simple golden objects so synonymous with its history. After first being approached by Thabo Mbeki during the former president’s African Renaissance initiatives, Dube continues to unearth what remains of this painfully unexplored history.

Through the lens of his interviewees, as well as his own narration, a whole new world of oral history emerges. For the first time, these fascinating records of genealogy, mythology and legend become intertwined into the existing encyclopedic archive. African people, and their own histories, are now tied to that ancient rock that has captivated the mind of so many.

After watching it I was left in awe at how little I know about this place, located just a few hours from my home in Johannesburg. I was also left depressed, knowing that the knowledge of Africa’s great civilisations has been denied to those children who grew up calling this continent home.

Dube’s Mapungubwe is a love letter to history, and essential viewing for anyone interested in where they come from.

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