#Sowetan40xNetflix | A trip down memory lane

Harari recreated with Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, Sthandile Nkosi, Lethabo Bereng, Leroy Siyafa, Dillon Windvogel, Given Stuurman and Ntuthuzelo Prince Grootboom behind the scenes in Johannesburg.
Harari recreated with Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, Sthandile Nkosi, Lethabo Bereng, Leroy Siyafa, Dillon Windvogel, Given Stuurman and Ntuthuzelo Prince Grootboom behind the scenes in Johannesburg.
Image: VELI NHLAPO

Sowetan, in partnership with global streaming service Netflix, is giving the number 40 a historic new meaning that will define pop and youth culture in Mzansi in years to come.

We are taking you on a trip down memory lane with the 40 hottest pop-culture icons that have captured the zeitgeist over the past four decades.

But we took it a step further by selecting some of their most iconic photographs from our library — and guess what? We have recreated those images using the young stars of Netflix shows Blood & Water, Jiva! and How to Ruin Christmas: The Wedding.

There is an almost eerie air of irony in how the year 1976, associated with revolt among SA youth, happens to be the same year television made its advent in the country. It was as if an era had placed a mirror in SA’s living rooms and muttered, “Look at yourself.”

With the Soweto Uprising rose a mighty storm of ebony dust in SA entertainment. There was a kind of collective black consciousness that inhabited the streets and airwaves alike, locally and abroad.

Veteran photojournalist Mbuzeni Zulu, dubbed the original paparazzo, remembers capturing Brenda Fassie’s lavish 1989 wedding to Nhlanhla Mbambo like it was yesterday.

Zulu describes the over-the-top soirée that had camera lights flashing from photographers from all corners of Mzansi as the biggest he has ever seen.

Young local designer Orapeleng Modutle was only six months old when Brenda Fassie staged her epic 1989 “wedding of the decade” to Nhlanhla Mbambo.

Modutle, who turned 33 this year, has three decades later recreated Fassie’s dreamy gown for the Sowetan40 x Netflix campaign.

Singer and songwriter Sipho Hotstix” Mabuse attained solo success after his time in Harari, “the middle name in cool soul”, a stylish and sophisticated band originally known as The Beaters that formed in the late 1960s.

In his solo career, Mabuse released the classic Burn Out in the early 1980s, which sold more than 500,000 copies, and the giant (disco Shangaan) hit of the late 1980s Jive Soweto.

Harari recreated with Natasha Thahane, Zamani Mbatha, Lethabo Bereng, Leroy Siyafa, Dillon Windvogel and Ntuthuzelo Prince Grootboom.
Harari recreated with Natasha Thahane, Zamani Mbatha, Lethabo Bereng, Leroy Siyafa, Dillon Windvogel and Ntuthuzelo Prince Grootboom.
Image: SIPHIWE MHLAMBI

The 1980s were a golden age of SA pop and an exciting era in sport, TV shows, radio, fashion, theatre and other cultural spaces.

PJ Powers and Johnny Clegg were among the few white artists who envisioned a true nonracial future before it became mere political rhetoric. Through their crossover hits like Woza Friday and Jabulani, they became bridge builders and fearless rebels who dared to give apartheid the middle finger and fraternised with the other side. 

Veteran photojournalist Tladi Khuele recalls what a rare feat it was to capture multiracial band Juluka, fronted by Johnny Clegg, during SA’s apartheid era.

Thembi Nyandeni began her career as a dancer and stage performer in the globe-trotting 1974 musical Ipi Tombi before launching a TV career in the 1980s. Her portrayal of the vain and headstrong Beauty, wife of the polygamous Mfaniseni (Magic Hlatshwayo), in Kwakhala Nyonini (1989) is still a favourite topic among those who loved the hilarious isiZulu drama series. She's remembered with fondness and nostalgia as umfazi wephepha — the modern woman with a wedding ring and a marriage certificate. 

Thembi Nyandeni performing at the Rand Stadium in 1985.
Thembi Nyandeni performing at the Rand Stadium in 1985.
Image: MBUZENI ZULU
Sne Mbatha from Jiva! as Thembi Nyandeni.
Sne Mbatha from Jiva! as Thembi Nyandeni.
Image: NEO NTSOMA

The 90s

Television was only 18 years old in SA in 1994. The newly freed black audiences were looking for new heroes. And so the Morokas became woven into the fabric of the SA TV viewing family when the first episode of Generations was aired and Rebecca Malope sang Indlela Zimbili at a funeral of the Moroka matriarch.

The country was a darling of the world, and in our international travels we proudly brandished our passports as curious customs officials and locals asked: “Ah, you’re from SA? Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Lucky Dube, Miriam Makeba, Desmond Tutu, Bafana Bafana..." and flashed a welcoming smile.

Avant-garde fashion designer Siyababa believes that recreating the Boom Shaka look for Sowetan40 x Netflix may have come early in his career, but it is the perfect fit.

The win by Jacqui Mofokeng in 1993 as the first black Miss SA unleashed a long line of ebony beauties who snatched the coveted crown from the lily-white winners who had made it their own terrain.

From Brenda Fassie to Felicia Mabuza-Suttle and Danai Gurira, trailblazing make-up artist Faith Seuoe has played her part in ensuring that the beauty industry does not fail black women.

The 57-year-old describes working on the Sowetan40 x Netflix campaign as a high point for her illustrious 38-year career in the cosmetics industry.

The 2000s

Trompies, HHP, Khanyi, Terry and Tsotsi helped put SA on map

The group was part of many others who pioneered kwaito, which is arguably the epitome of kasi culture.

After decades of turmoil during apartheid and the political violence of the 1990s, Y2K flew in solid with the smash hit Nkalakatha by kwaito superstar Mandoza.

2010s

Zozibini Tunzi has been a public figure for only two years, but it feels like two decades.

Her trajectory to the top is an emblem of how the internet (lighting fast) and its fave offspring social media (fickle) have made it easy for hundreds like her to become superstars overnight in the 2010s.

Not all superheroes wear capes, and Sho Madjozi has shown that some wear a xibelani (traditional Tsonga skirt).

Her kryptonite is the unashamedly robust and unwavering lyrics that celebrate her Tsonga pride and heritage.

Cassper Nyovest’s #FillUp series of concerts at The Dome, Orlando, FNB, Royal Bafokeng and Moses Mabhida stadiums have made him the epitome of “black child it's possible.”

After staging the first concert in the series in 2015, he earned his other sobriquet "Abuti Fill Up". By leading by example, Cassper has shown local artists that they too can fill big live events as headliners and not just their international counterparts.

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