YouTube miniseries tackling gender issues becomes viral sensation
Sikhakhane wants to be Mzansi's Tyler Perry
At just 22 years old, Tyler Perry cobbled together $12,000 of life savings to put together his first stage play, a debut that would mirror his early career of financial flops and critical catastrophes.
However, nearly 30 years later, Perry has become one of the most successful film moguls in the world, building his own studio that has become home to his signature creations.
In the lush hills of Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal, we find Sanele Sikhakhane, a young amateur filmmaker who has taken SA by storm.
The young director, who is greatly influenced by the success story of Perry, has caused a brouhaha on Twitter after his YouTube miniseries Abafana vs Amantombazana became a viral sensation.
The series follows two gangs of girls and boys with staunch leaders as they duke it out in a battle of the sexes.
“I was on social media one day and all I saw was talks on gender-based violence. It was a lot on men vs women and the solution that I saw to this was that we have to teach young kids about life, especially teaching boys about manhood,” Sikhakhane says.
While studying at the University of Zululand, Sikhakhane saved up funds from his stipend to get the necessary equipment and software he needed to start his production company, Sasenathi Studios.
While the wide assortment of videos garnered him 500 subscribers and sub-par viewing, it was the preteens he cast in Abafana vs Amantombazana who really put Sikhakhane’s name on the map with more than 50,000 subscribers and counting.
“The kids are from around my neighbourhood, so I picked the ones I knew I could work with. Whenever I need to shoot, it takes me about five minutes to gather all of them from their homes,” says Sikhakhane.
“I can see talent from how someone talks, without acting but just from the way that they speak, show their personality and interact with others.”
The series often deals with gender-based disparities through its lead characters Boss Lady and Mshayiwesinqa, who are often at loggerheads about their views on promiscuity and equality.
Avoiding a preachy approach, Sikhakhane uses comedy as a springboard to make the subject matter more palatable. Influenced by his love for soapies, the series plays out with melodrama and spoonfuls of the supernatural.
“We are coming from a very disadvantaged background and the kids’ parents don’t know a lot about YouTube so I had to explain a lot of things,” says Sikhakhane, who admits even his family only came to really understand the work he was doing after he was starting to attract attention on TV talk shows.
While the cast might shine and earn a number of coos from fans, Sikhakhane has received criticism for the adult themes, character names with sexual undertones and the strong language the kids use to communicate.
“That’s what draws attention the most. Our videos were being watched, at most, by about a hundred people but now we have much more. That is because it’s relatable. Even with Mshayiwesinqa’s nickname, that implies you are a player, which a lot of guys tend to have.
“As young men this is how we were brought up and it was not to be good men. It was a way to always play girls and it makes you a top dog. These were things that you would find in our communities and it is still there.”
Staunchly devoted to creating a platform that will give a space for fresh faces in the SA industry, Sikhakhane plans on growing his business to the point of mirroring Tyler Perry Studios by 2030.
While he has amassed a growing following, Sikhakhane admits that he still needs help with producing more content.
You can catch the latest episodes of his shows on the YouTube channel on the Sasenathi Studio page.
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