A look at Duma Ndlovu Biography
Born on 12th October 1954, Duma Ndlovu is a renowned South African poet, filmmaker, producer, journalist, and playwright. He has made significant contributions to the South African television industry, creating award-winning shows such as Muvhango, Imbewu: The Seed, and Uzalo. From 1996 to 2004, he held the prestigious position of chairman of the South African Music Awards.
Early Life and Education
Duma Ndlovu, of Zulu ancestry, was born in Soweto, Gauteng. His ancestral roots trace back to Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal. He completed his high school education at Sekano Ntoane High School in Senaoane.
Upon finishing high school, Ndlovu began writing for The World newspaper. He then established the Medupe Writers Association, an organization aimed at inspiring young black individuals to pursue writing. He served as the organization’s president until 1977 when it was banned by the apartheid government due to its involvement in black consciousness and anti-apartheid movements.
Following the ban, Ndlovu and several members of the Medupe Writers Association left South Africa for the United States to escape persecution by the apartheid government. In the United States, he completed his master’s degree at Hunter College in New York.
Contributions to the Arts
In 1985, Ndlovu founded the Woza Afrika Foundation. This foundation was established to provide young black aspiring actors and actresses with opportunities to pursue their dreams and to raise funds to support the Arts in South Africa. He also taught African-American literature and music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
In recognition of his contributions, the University of Zululand awarded him a PhD by the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in May 2022.
Career and Achievements
Ndlovu returned to South Africa in 1992 and founded Word Of Mouth Productions to produce music, theatre, and television productions. The company achieved success and was later chosen as the official casting company in South Africa for the Broadway musical Disney’s The Lion King.
In 1994, Ndlovu wrote Bergville Stories, which was positively received and had successful runs in Durban at the Playhouse, the Market Theatre, and the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.
Ndlovu’s other theatrical writing and directing credits include The Game, The Ritual, The Journey, MEMEZA (upcoming), and Sheila’s Day.
Ndlovu created Murendeni, the first Tshivenda TV drama based in Thathe, Limpopo. Initially, the show was primarily in TshiVenda, but later other languages were incorporated into the show to bridge the cultural divide between the various tribes in South Africa. The premiere episode aired on 7 April 1997 on Sabc 2 and was well received by viewers. The show was a success and won multiple awards. For his work in Muvhango, Ndlovu was awarded an honorary PhD from the University of Venda. Muvhango is the most-watched show on Sabc 2, and on 16 May 2019, it was reported that the show had reached 6 million viewers.
When asked why he chose to write in Tshivenda, a minority language in South Africa, despite his first language being Zulu, Ndlovu explained that he saw a gap when ICASA (then known as IBA) called on the SABC to start featuring marginalized languages. He decided to write in Tshivenda, the smallest South African language, because he was familiar with it and its cultures. He believed it would make an impact, and indeed, it did.
Imbewu: The Seed
Duma Ndlovu, in collaboration with Leleti Khumalo and Anant Singh as executive producers, created the television show “Imbewu: The Seed”. The show was broadcast on etv and received positive reviews from viewers. It managed to attract a significant audience, with 2.7 million viewers tuning in for its premiere. As of December 2018, the show had amassed over 4 million viewers.
Duma Ndlovu is also the creator of “Uzalo”, a telenovela shot and based in KwaMashu’s F section in KwaZulu-Natal. The show’s premiere episode aired on Sabc 1 on 9 February 2015 and was an instant hit, gaining 5.5 million viewers in less than a month despite only broadcasting three nights a week.
Due to schedule changes on SABC 1, “Uzalo” temporarily switched to SABC 2, where it surpassed “Muvhango” as the most-watched show on the channel. However, “Muvhango” regained its top spot after “Uzalo” was moved back to Sabc 1.
The popularity of “Uzalo” continued to grow as it was extended from three nights a week to five nights a week, competing with “Generations: The Legacy” for the title of the most-watched TV show in South Africa. In June 2015, “Uzalo” officially dethroned “Generations: The Legacy” as the most-watched television show in South Africa.
By the end of September 2018, “Uzalo” had broken all records in the history of television viewing in South Africa. On the first of October 2018, the show reached 10.2 million viewers, cementing its top spot as the most-watched television programme by a significant margin.
Duma Ndlovu has been recognized for his contributions to the arts. He received an honorary PhD from the University of Venda. Furthermore, Ndlovu and Mbongeni Ngema were honoured by United States Congressman Charles Rangel for their contribution to the Arts. In recognition of their work, Charles Rangel declared 9 May as “Duma Ndlovu and Mbongeni Ngema Day” in Harlem, New York.