Two main characters on MTV Shuga: Down South interrogate the "their side of the story" narrative around rapists and abusers
This is the story of high school classmates Khensani and Thuli, who are played by actresses Samkelisiwe Makhoba and Dee Rasedile on MTV Shuga: Down South Season 2.
This Edutainment TV series returned to our screens this month to take us further into the lives of the community members of Zenzele. But more especially, the life of Zenzele's villain, Sol who is played by Ayanda Mankayi.
If you haven't watched the first two episodes yest, catch the promo here:
After this season's premiere we spoke to two actress who portray pivotal and complex characters on the show that many South African women might either identify with or know personally.
Samke and Dee - both in their 20s - tap into the emotions of troubled teenage girls Thuli and Khensi. Although both faced with the same obstacle that is the murderer and rapist of a teen girl (Season 1), their afflictions differ.
Thuli (Dee), is Sol's younger sister, while Khensi (Samke) lost her best friend to Sol's violence. While Thuli is battling inner conflict about the domestic violence in her family, she is also grappling with the idea that she is not the sum of her brother's actions.
Khensi, however, goes through a season of triggers and, at some points, vigilantism as her cousin Arabeng (Mamodibe Ramodibe) is having a flirtationship with Sol.
These two girls' lives are no different to the reality of many women in our country who have either lost close friends and family to gender-based violence or who have perpetrators in their families. Even more maddening is that, much like in real life, Sol only gets six months in prison for two heinous crimes - murder and rape.
It also comes at a time when convicted sexual offender Brickz has a fellow music-artist friend in Cleo who deems his crime a mere "fall" rather than what it is.
Dj Cleo said Bricks "fell along the way", that's why we're upset.— Zanele Madiba (@MissMadiba) February 18, 2019
He is reducing RAPE to the mere act of "falling"
If you don't get that then we can't be having this discussion with you because you're part of the problem.
In light of this, we got to sit down with two #MTVShugaDS cast members and unpack what message exactly the directors of the show intend to drive home through the portrayal of Sol's back story of violence and abuse.
Samke, who plays Khensi explains that "when Arabeng comes to stay with [her family] it triggers her. And the only way Khensani can try resolve the situation is through her anger and frustration. She feels she failed her [late] best friend in the past and she is implementing the changes now."
"In her quest for closure, she needs comfort and a way to confront Sol," the young actress adds.
"That’s what Khensani’s quest is – she’s in desperate need of him to ‘fess up' – you have to say you’re an abuser and get help for it. It also interrogates our justice system as well – Sol only gets six months in prison after he raped and murdered a girl. Six months is nothing compared to what you should be there for," Samke exclaims.
Dee, who has appeared on major local TV dramas including Saints & Sinners, has the following to say about playing the little sister of a convicted rapist:
"We are looking at the human and the reason why [Sol] is like this,” the actress says as she unpacks why her character Thuli expressed joy at the return of her brother from prison.
“It’s tricky for Thuli because it is her only brother and she’s still trying to make sense of a lot of things, piecing things together," she adds.
This might spark discussions similar to those that erupted after Nicki Minaj allegedly bailed her child rapist brother out of jail three years ago.
However, Dee emphasises that in this season (and in society), the point is never for us to excuse the behaviour of abusers in our lives even though we’re interrogating their actions.
Samke also echoes this statement, saying "we can’t just accept someone’s apology because of their [abusive] background".
And this is ultimately the conversation season two of #MTVShugaDS hopes to spark in TV rooms, dinner tables and office canteens across South Africa - interrogating our justice system with regards to gender-based violence and rape as well as this country's victim-blaming culture that constantly gives perpetrators platforms to tell their "side of the story."
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