Takalani Sesame

After 13 seasons, ‘Takalani Sesame’ has kept pace with the times, and maintained relevance and a deep connection with each new generation. Image Supplied

Over 21 years of ‘Takalani Sesame’: A true South African icon

After 13 seasons, ‘Takalani Sesame’ has kept pace with the times, and maintained relevance and a deep connection with each new generation.

Takalani Sesame

After 13 seasons, ‘Takalani Sesame’ has kept pace with the times, and maintained relevance and a deep connection with each new generation. Image Supplied

As we celebrate the new season of Takalani Sesame airing on SABC2, the beloved series continues to make an impact—not just for fans but for the talent behind some of the most beloved characters. With a curricular focus on ‘big emotions,’ mirroring the intense feelings experienced by many children throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the season has been a special one for the actors who bring the beloved Muppets to life. 


It’s not only young South Africans who are able to offer an answer to this question; many of their moms and dads have grown up with the show, singing along with the likes of Elmo, Zuzi, Kami, Moshe and Zikwe, every week day after school.

One of the reasons for the show’s timeless appeal is its ability to tap into the zeitgeist of the times. The newest season’s accent on ‘big emotions’ is a case in point: in fact, Damon Berry, the talent who brings Elmo to life, says that this has been a real highlight during his 22 years as part of the show.

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“In our exciting new season, Elmo gets a big feeling when he tries to play Zuzu’s Adventure game. It’s very powerful to see Elmo deal with real big feelings like being nervous,” Damon enthuses. 

While Damon says that his Takalani Sesame journey started when he was cast as a character in the show’s very first season, other puppeteers have fond memories of watching the characters themselves.

Elmo and Damon. Image Supplied


Take Nozizwe Zulu, the talent behind Kami, for example:

“Of course I watched the show when I was growing up! Everyone in my hood did. I was already in my youth when Takalani Sesame was released in the early 2000, but the show was so much fun that, even at my age, I never wanted to miss it. Even though I was already in the industry, I thought Takalani Sesame was an existing place, like Soweto where I came from. To tell you a secret, I used to tell my grandmother that I wanted to work at Takalani Sesame. I used to love ous’ Moshidi, who was then Mmadimpho, and I wished I could work with her someday – talk about fate!”

Sharon, Kami and Nozizwe. Image Supplied

Nozizwe isn’t the only person on the team whose life was significantly impacted by the show – it seems that many people the actors meet have a story to tell about their favourite character. Reshoketswe Maredi, who operates Zikwe’s arm, recalls having coffee with a new friend one day:

“When he asked where I worked and I told him that I’m a Muppeteer, he got so excited that he started singing all the songs from Takalani. He told me that he’d grown up on it. I knew my chances of dating him were zero percent!” 

Damon has had a similar experience: “We were once doing a location shoot in Maboneng. While I was standing there with my character, a successful businessman in a suit got out of his fancy car and started gesticulating out of the window. He wanted to share what a fan he is, and how the show has had a positive impact on him…how it had helped him. What a blessing it is to see that we’ve made a real difference in people’s lives,” Damon muses. 

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Tumi Maratele, the voice of Zuzu, once found herself seated on a place next to her character’s “greatest fan”:

“I was wearing a Zuzu t-shirt, and she asked where I got it from. When I told her I had received it on set, she told me that Zuzu was her favourite – and she couldn’t believe it when I told her that I puppeteer Zuzu! I had to show her pics of myself with Zuzu, do Zuzu’s giggle, make her voice and even sing a song. Needless, to say, I performed the whole flight!”

Zuzu and Tumi. Image Supplied


Nyanga Tshabalala, whose character is Zikwe, says that even if people don’t have their own stories about watching Takalani Sesame, they’re inevitably intrigued when they find out he’s a puppeteer.

“They always want to know how we do it. That tells me that we’re doing something right – because all children and adults believe in the magic and the messages the characters are putting across on screen.”

Nyanga, Zikwe and Reshoketswe. Image Supplied

While the puppeteers (or at least, their furry alter egos) have become household names, they all agree that one of the best parts of working on the show is getting to collaborate with South African superstars. The show has a proud history of bringing the cream of local talent onto the set. Think of the time Zikwe taught Jimmy Dludlu to play guitar, or when Elmo jammed with Bra Hugh Masekela, for example. The current series is no different: this time, we’re graced with the presence of the likes of Sho Majozi, Prev Reddy, The Goliaths, Holly & Mimi Ray, Farieda Metsileng and David Kau.

Zikwe and Jimmy Dludlu. Image Supplied


For Lindani Nkosi, better known as Moshe, the inclusion of such celebrities is a highlight – but perhaps even more memorable are the collaborations with individuals, families and societies in need.

“It’s wonderful that we’ve been able to include people with special needs, adults and children alike,” Lindani says.

Moshe and Lindani Nkosi. Image Supplied


As the series celebrates its 13th season, which airs weekdays on SABC 2 at 15:30, it’s clear that one of the reasons for the show’s evergreen appeal, is its ability to keep pace with the times, maintaining relevance and a deep connection with each new generation of youngsters.

Who can forget the addition of Kami to the show, for example? As the first HIV-positive Muppet, this much-loved member of the crew had a critical part to play in educating South Africans about living with the virus. Of course, as time has moved on, we’ve encountered new challenges – and, as ever, the characters have been on hand to help children deal with their evolving circumstances, educating them even as they entertain.

Sharon Mekoa, the actor who operates Kami’s arm, believes this is one of the show’s strengths:

“We have so much fun on the show. I think that’s why both adults and children like to watch it: it’s enormously fun, but we’re all learning at the same time.”


Nyanga points out that Takalani Sesame has also played a critical role in helping South African society to integrate, especially as it first appeared on screens at a time when South Africans were searching for a way to create cohesion.

“For the first time in the history of South Africa, children and parents alike were able to watch the same show in their mother tongue languages and receive the same information,” he says.

He’s equally proud that the show has gone on to win two international awards.

As a new generation of South Africans gets ready to sing along to Takalani Sesame’s theme song, one thing is for sure: the show will remain as much a part of local life as shisanyama and biltong for years to come!

After more than 21 years on South African screens, it’s no exaggeration to say that Takalani Sesame has become a household name. In fact, the lovable Muppets of Takalani Sesame have become an entrenched part of family life for generations, making this a true heritage brand.