TV trilogy unearths naked truth about ancient Mapungubwe

2017-07-09 15:00

Johannesburg - Mandla Dube, who directed the hit movie Kalushi – a biopic about slain political activist Solomon Mahlangu – is swapping the big screen for the small one. He can be seen conducting interviews on SABC3 tonight in the three-part series, Mapungubwe: Echoes in the Valley.

Like Kalushi, the trilogy marks a major historical undertaking – this time, to explore the story of the Mapungubwe kingdom, one of southern Africa’s pre-eminent precolonial states. The series took 10 years to make and tells the history of Mapungubwe through the eyes of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

It is the first time that Dube has experimented with a historical TV documentary format. It sees the award-winning director interviewing southern African orators, archaeologists, academics, writers and historians, who debunk the misconception that colonialism brought civilisation to precolonial southern Africa.

Dube travels across sub-Saharan Africa to show the extent to which the continent is replete with ancient dynasties and civilisations that precede Euro-US hegemony.

Dube said his exploration into Mapungubwe began when former president Thabo Mbeki invited him to be the archivist as part of efforts by his administration to ensure the preservation of Mapungubwe’s rich history.

“I am a student of history, so when Mr Mbeki asked me to join his project, it was a great honour. As the project progressed, I found that we had been edited out of our own history. It became important for me to continue celebrating our ancient classical civilisations.

“The logistics of actually getting to Mapungubwe were not easy. We went there nearly 100 times in the past 10 years. It is very far from South Africa. Being able to find people who know the narrative was also extremely difficult as many of them are no longer with us.”

Even filming in the nude, Dube said, could not stop the progress of the project.

“My favourite part was when we buried the remains of those who had been excavated by the universities of Pretoria and of the Witwatersrand in 1933. We went to the top of Mapungubwe mountain. Only the royal household was allowed there. I was allowed to be a part of this, but they told me I had to be naked to film it, so I had to be naked to film it,” he said.

Significant discoveries about the origin of African genealogy are revealed in the trilogy, Dube said.

“The most interesting part of working on this, for me, is that we discovered that the very people who are Nguni today, are originally Ngona and Bakone people. Mapungubwe repudiated the myth that there are Venda, Zulu, Swazi or Shona people because they are all actually Ngona people. We all came from Mapungubwe.”

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