Authentic Shaka iLembe set wow

GCNR CEO Kobus Botha with Ayanda Thabethe. Also pictured left is Miss SA 2022 finalist Lebogang Mahlangu. Image by Yolanda van Der Stoep

Authentic Shaka iLembe set wows Ayanda Thabethe

‘The set is astonishing in its authenticity’: Miss South African 2022 runner-up Ayanda Thabethe visits ‘Shaka iLembe’ set.

Authentic Shaka iLembe set wow

GCNR CEO Kobus Botha with Ayanda Thabethe. Also pictured left is Miss SA 2022 finalist Lebogang Mahlangu. Image by Yolanda van Der Stoep

The Greater Cradle Nature Reserve (GCNR) formed a spectacular backdrop for four crucial sets built for the 12-part television series Shaka iLembe which has been received with accolades and applause since it began airing on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) last month.

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It is no coincidence that KwaZulu Natal-born Miss South Africa 2022 runner-up, 24-year-old Ayanda Thabethe, is one of the greatest admirers of the show and the magnificent set.

She visited the set before she headed off to represent South Africa at the prestigious Miss Supranational pageant held in Poland tomorrow (14 July).

Thabethe, apart from winning over contestants from 65 countries and the judges with her effervescent personality, proudly broadcast her Zulu heritage in her introductory Supra video.

She said the visit to the set was particularly poignant for her: “GCNR just outside of Johannesburg, with its vast open spaces and its rolling hills, reminds me of the surrounding area in my Pietermaritzburg home. The set is astonishing in its authenticity.”

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More than 120 builders and thatchers from KwaZulu-Natal were engaged; all experienced in traditional hut building methods to ensure that the set was fully authentic. They joined artisans from Gauteng to construct the four main kingdoms built within the GCNR – complete with raised watchtowers that served as an early warning system.

Situated within 9 000 hectares of pristine nature, this unique ecotourism destination is home to two active paleoanthropological sites and the Cradle Boutique Hotel and is also the birthplace of humankind. Starting in this place where human civilisation began, Africans moved up Africa into the continent and then migrated down south again.

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Shaka iLembe tells the origin story of the famous Zulu king and the events that shaped his remarkable life. While the series is an entertainment title and a fictional interpretation of historical events, the producers have taken care to ensure that Nguni culture is authentically portrayed and respected.

The filming of Shaka iLembe was particularly poignant for the GCNR CEO, Kobus Botha. He was a cameraman on the first Shaka Zulu television series which was filmed back in 1986.

“For me, it’s come full circle”, he says, “what a privilege it has been to host this ground-breaking series. We, at GCNR and the Cradle Boutique Hotel, and guests who joined our Origins Tours that traverse our property on game drives that take in two active paleoanthropological digs, have watched in wonder as the sets took shape. The authenticity was astonishing. We are delighted to have been chosen as the prime destination for the filming of this iconic story.”

Dstv's Shaka iLembe
Dstv’s Shaka iLembe rated as the best in history. Image via Twitter @PhilMphela

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Botha said he and all his staff wished Thabethe well at Miss Supranational: “We know she is going to do the country proud on the international stage. We were lucky enough to host the finalists at GCNR and they are all impressive ambassadors for this country.”

Miss Supranational 2023 takes place on Friday evening, 14 July, at the Strzelecki Park Amphitheatre in Nowy Sącz, Poland when the winner will be crowned by her predecessor reigning Miss Supranational and Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane.