Archbishop Desmond Tutu makes his debut as a television presenter tonight as The South African Story with Archbishop Desmond Tutu debuts on SABC 3 – and readers of Tonight could win a signed box set of the series.
Independent Newspaper’s Tonight arts supplement is running a competition across four titles – The Star, The Pretoria News, the Daily News and the Cape Argus that challenges viewers to answer a question about each province, and stand a chance of winning a DVD box set of the series, personally signed by Archbishop Tutu. The competition was launched yesterday.
The series, directed and produced by Cape Town team of veteran journalists, Roger Friedman and Benny Gool, is more than a travel series showing the magnificence of South Africa’s scenery. It’s a story that contextualises where we’ve been as a nation, and where we are going, told through the eyes of a man who’s seen it all and by using historic archive footage to give that context.
“We realised that there could be a market for the way we have been telling the South African story for the past 20 years, and we were fortunate to have worked on occasion with Archbishop Tutu, whom we were able to approach to play the role of host. He may not have the travel guide experience of a David Attenborough, for example, but Arch is quite unique and an international icon,” said Friedman.
It was a complex shoot that required serious management, Gool said. “Due to the Archbishop’s travel schedule, we were forced to be very creative in getting him from Point A to Point B to Point C in time. Production crews were sent on ahead of him and really, the Archbishop saw most of the country from a helicopter!”
The story is told across nine 30-minute episodes, each located largely within the borders of one of the country’s nine provinces. Archbishop Tutu talks to the people in each province, explores their history and culture and admires the different scenery in each.
The series, filmed between December 2009 and April 2010, took Archbishop Tutu to seminal locations across South Africa – from the banks of the Limpopo River in the far North East, to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, to the house where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was banished in Brandfort in the Free State, to the top of Table Mountain in the South West.
On his way to visiting the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, Archbishop Tutu says: “The Eastern Cape. Born into struggle. From this rugged land, where waterfalls plunge down sheer rock faces directly into a churning sea, rose many of the giants of the South African liberation movement: Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela…
“It is a place of incongruities, where apartheid neglect allowed the natural splendour – and the people’s spirit of resistance – to flourish unhindered. There is no gold here, no platinum or diamonds. The Eastern Cape’s riches are embedded in the visual splendour of its landscapes, its cultural traditions, its human warmth.”
Of course, East London is where the Truth and Reconciliation hearings began so it is a place that resonates for Archbishop Tutu.
“After we voted apartheid into history in 1994, South Africa established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help heal our wounds. The commission created a platform for ordinary South Africans to recount the stories of their past, and for perpetrators of violence – of all political persuasions – to make full disclosures of their activities in exchange for amnesty.”
The message of the series, said Friedman, is that South Africans shouldn’t lose sight of the progress we have made over the past 17 years. “South Africa is a very politically conscious society. We must not let the fact of our consciousness get us down. We should take more credit than we often allow ourselves. There are many things that we have done, and do, incredibly well.”