On: Sir David Attenborough

EXCLUSIVE: Sir David Attenborough spoke to Helen Herimbi about ‘Blue Planet II’, ahead of its African TV debut this weekend A few members of the media from all around the world are sitting in a room at the BFI IMAX in London, waiting for Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, to arrive to a royal world premiere of Blue Planet II. But I am more excited that I’ll get to sit down with the series presenter, naturalist and broadcast icon, Sir David Attenborough. When Attenborough walks into the room, it’s like we’re all kids again. He picks up a heavy book about the series, Blue Planet II: A New World of Hidden Depths – for which he wrote the foreword – then, with tongue firmly in cheek, he says: “Do you think perhaps they will give me one of these?” That’s pretty much the core of his presence. Attenborough is aware that he has all ears and so, he makes interactions memorable. In 2001, the world saw the first multi-award-winning Blue Planet series – which uncovers the wonders of the oceans. It was the most-watched natural history programme in the UK for 15 years running. It was narrated by Attenborough, who also writes the script. It took the BBC Natural History Unit four years to complete a follow-up. Blue Planet II is an astonishingly up-close look at creatures I didn’t know existed. This season has seven episodes that run just under an hour and it’s wonderful to see how Mzansi plays a role in what really feels like a film. There are expeditions to the Eastern Cape to check on the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin, as well as visits to the Wild Coast and even kelp forests of the Cape. Expect to learn more about the Common octopus, Pyjama shark, Sevengill shark, Cape fur seal, Bamboo kelp and Split fan kelp. After the screening, the series’ executive producer, James Honeyborne, is sitting next to Attenborough. I remark that the first time their paths crossed was about 20 years ago on the BBC’s Wildlife on One – of which Honeyborne was the Read More …

On: Tjovitjo

SABC 1’s Tjovito is the disruptor of the drama genre we’ve been waiting for, writes Helen Herimbi As I drive out of a tar road and onto a mixture of gravel and broken bottles and potholes, I spot a man on his knees on a patch of grass. He is kneeling in front of an old man wearing an off-white robe. And then? I wonder aloud. “Hhayi, that’s just where the prophet does his consultations,” Sibusiso explains to me in Zulu. He is one of the crew members on the set of SABC 1’s new drama, Tjovitjo and he’s directing me to the complicated location in Crown Mines, south of Johannesburg. Having seen a few episodes of Tjovitjo, I know this is going to be a polarising 26-episode drama series. Bomb Productions is great at producing dramas that hold up a mirror to the majority of South Africa but not since their controversial Yizo Yizo has a drama been this reflective, nuanced and interesting. Produced by Puo Pha, the production company that gave us series like Society, this drama is the second coming of disruptors in the drama genre. But what is it about? Viewers are introduced to MaFred, a pantsula dance leader who is troubled by more than what the viewer can see. He straddles the line of being feared and revered by his community and is in love with a girl who only has 50 cents to her name until her birthday. Tjovitjo has segue-ways that let us into the worlds of other characters in this destitute community. Other stars of the show include Rapulana Seiphemo, Harriet Manamela, Hlengiwe Lushaba, Ntosh Madlingozi and Jabulile Mhlamba. MaFred is the kind of character who seems like a bad guy – sitting upon a dusty thronelike chair – that you can’t help but root for. But as the award-winning filmmaker, Vincent Moloi, who is Tjovitjo’s director, says, it’s not that simple. “This is not your traditional villain and protagonist story because everyone has a good and bad side,” he explains in between shooting an emotive scene between two actresses. “There’s no Read More …

On: Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons is a mogul and a mom but, as Helen Herimbi found out, the latter is her favourite job. Tall as a skyscraper, Kimora Lee Simmons hunches down to speak to her husband, Oscar-nominated actor, Djimon Hounsou. She asks if he’d like something to drink, water maybe? His response is inaudible, but he gently touches her arm and their body language does much to make everyone in the room all mushy inside. All together now: “awww”. She flicks her jet-black mane back and the transition from doting wife to media mogul is obvious. The not-so-newly weds were in Cape Town for the Mandela Legacy Canvas auction and, of course, to speak to the press about the forthcoming season of her hit reality TV series, Life In the Fab Lane. I follow the former supermodel and Baby Phat clothing founder to a table and her gait is graceful – learnt from years of being Karl Lagerfeld’s muse – and her smile is inviting – from years of posing for the paparazzi. But the 36-year-old powerhouse wants to approve the pictures. “I just want to make sure you don’t use the one picture of me doing this,” – she sucks her cheeks in like an animated Nicki Minaj caricature. Everyone laughs, Simmons the loudest. However, we know when it comes to her image, shemeans business. But, suprisingly, today she’s a calmer version of the dragon lady who makes her staff cry on camera. Simmons lets out a belly laugh and asks: “Me? Calm? I’m wild, not serene and calm at all.” She shoots a glance in the direction of Hounsou and entourage, then continues: “I flew 100 000 hours to get here and my husband’s dying he’s so tired, but I always feel energetic because I have kids, so everything is a group effort. It’s always me plus three, or us with my husband. I have company whenever I go to the bathroom so I always feel… what’s the word? Exuberant.” Her kids Ming and Aoki Lee (the kids, who have their own clothing label called Mioki, are from her Read More …

On: Themba Ndaba

Themba Ndaba chats about playing the bad guy, remaining convincing and being a platinum blonde, writes Helen Herimbi. Themba Ndaba is dressed to the nines. He walks tall in the BEE uniform: a high collared shirt with a suede jacket and pointy club shoes to match. He is wearing the clothes of Austin Ntabele, the newest addition to Zone 14’s characters and a villain with expensive taste. But he is not in character yet. His smile and intense concentration on a music video proves that. It’s American breakout artist, Wiz Khalifa’s music video. The actor bobs his head to every chant. Black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow. It’s clear he doesn’t know the words to the song but he is enthralled nonetheless. After explaining to Ndaba who Wiz Khalifa is, I ask him if he likes this sort of music. He laughs and says: “you know what I like about these songs? The sound is so big, it’s almost orchestral.” Ndaba settles back into the gigantic couch and reminisces about when he was around Wi Khalifa’s age. “I started out helping school drop-outs catch up with their studies,” he begins. “I would help them with English literature and other things so that they could get back into the mainstream with other students.” That’s when – as the cliché goes – the acting bug bit. But what was it about this art that swayed Ndaba – who studied economics at Harare Polytech in Zimbabwe – from numbers to characters? Ndaba’s eyes widen: “it was the ability to use myself to tell a story. When I started, it was a feeling of ‘wow, I can be somebody else’ and I enjoyed it.” He thinks a little more. “Then the challenge was ‘how do I make this person believable?’ It is still a challenge now.” Thankfully for drama lovers, Ndaba has been convincing each time. He was believable in Soul City as Zimele, a philanderer who brought HIV-Aids into his family. We believed him as the heart-breaking Amos, a down-and-out man struggling to connect with his estranged son in the Read More …