Mzansi Magic's upcoming drama series 'Queen Modjadji' to celebrate Balobedu culture and language

Ngelekanyo Ramulodi, Masutang Rasekele and Helen Lebepe are part of the cast of ‘Queen Modjadji’. Picture: Supplied

Ngelekanyo Ramulodi, Masutang Rasekele and Helen Lebepe are part of the cast of ‘Queen Modjadji’. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 28, 2024


Mzansi Magic, in July, will be premièring their anticipated drama series, ‘Queen Modjadji’ - which tells the story of the Rain Queen, or Modjadji as she is more commonly known.

Queen Modjadji is the hereditary ruling monarch for the Balobedu people in Limpopo, a northern province in South Africa.

“Wow, finally the story of my ancestors,” said actress Helen Lebepe who portrays Raisibe.

“People can finally know where we originate from, who we are and what we are about, everything about our culture, our gear,” explained the actress who was honoured to be a part of the cast.

Storytelling is one of the oldest ways to preserve African culture and pass it down to generations. Over time, storytelling has developed with means such as television being used to tell African history.

Ngelekanyo Ramulodi who portrays the young Queen Modjadji, felt “seen and represented” in the story.

Ngele Ramulondi as Young Queen Modjadji. Picture: Supplied

“For young girls to see this and see the same power that Queen Modjadji holds, within themselves,” added Ramulodi touching on the importance of representation in storytelling.

Leading the production is renowned poet, playwright, and producer Duma Ndlovu whose vision was to craft a series that offers viewers an opportunity to engage with the Lobedu culture and traditions.

Rhythm World Productions and the team behind the title meticulously researched and consulted with key stakeholders, tribal leaders, and academic experts for the story of the Balobedu legendary rainmaker, the first Queen Modjadji,

“As much as we are the tellers of African stories we need to do it carefully, these are our voices, this is a true dissertation of our ancestors,” said Masutang Rasekele who portrays Dzugudini.

Masutang Rasekele as Dzugudini in 'Queen Modjadji'. Picture: Supplied

“I’m in the process of learning, so it’s not about telling the story but I’m also learning myself, I am on a constant journey.

“That is why I’m so grateful that so much work has been done as part of this project to educate everyone. When we leave this project, we won’t leave as tellers of the story but as educated people and I hope that we continue to do that as Africans.”

When ‘Queen Modjadji’ debuts and as the story unfolds viewers will get to learn different things about the Balobedu culture with production paying attention to every detail and there being meaning behind costumes and props.

Lebepe explained how the colour of the beads her character Raisibe wears set her apart from the royal family, even though she works with them, the colour of her beads distinguishes that she is not of royal blood.

Helen Lebepe as Raisibe in 'Queen Modjadji'. Picture: Supplied

The cast was selected based on their ability to master the Khelobedu language and to closely portray the historical figures that form a significant part of the story in the lead-up to Queen Modjadji’s reign.

Not only is Rasekele a fresh new face on the screen, but she is also a cultural and language advisor on the production of ‘Queen Modjadji’ and also part of the writing time.

“This is the first time the language is being written in some kind of official capacity,” explained Ndlovu.

Ndlovu acknowledged the challenge that came, as the language does not exist in a written form. This is why they also enlisted a group of academics to make sure what they are doing is going to be universally accepted.

“It’s being disseminated with scripts, translation and subtitles. So our responsibility is to make sure that whatever we arrest in terms of writing the language has to be something that’s going to be universally accepted.”

When it came to the Khelobedu language, production has attempted to match the Khelobedu spoken now to the one of back then, in an effort not to alienate their audience and to not be too difficult to understand.

To strive for Khelobedu which is uniform, actors have been trained and provided translated scripts. Ramulodi, who is Venda speaking, was up for the challenge to learn as this was a story she wanted to be a part of.

“Having a team of language coaches that do give you the right resources to be able to learn the language enough for the time when shooting comes then you are completely confident in the fact that I can tell the story in the authentic mother tongue,” said Ramulodi.

Leading up to the series debut Mzansi Magic is taking viewers on a journey on social media to familiarise themselves with Khelobedu terms and unpack the culture that they will hear and see in the series.

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