ZA News: “Go ahead, make your day”. [VIDEO]

As a child I was addicted to watching the Muppets.  As I got older, however, it became increasingly clear that the quality of social commentary offered by characters like Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, or any other Jim Henson creation (the Swedish Chef being a personal favourite) was increasingly inadequate to meet my growing appetite for satire.  To fill this void I turned to everything from Swift and Pope, to Monty Python and Mel Brooks, to Stewart  and Colbert, with hope that they too might play a role in collectively destroying and creating my worldview.  It was clear through all of this exploration and personal growth, however,  that something substantial was missing; something Colbert could never offer: Puppets.

For those of you in a similar situation, i.e. You enjoy satire, you feel more puppets should read and comment on the news, and you are from, or have a regional interest in South Africa and it’s neighboring countries, your wait has ended thanks to ZA News!

Now in its second season, ZA News (ZA being the code for South/Zuid Africa) is a much needed (and at times controversial) daily news program featuring puppet renditions of many of South Africa’s most public and arguably famous people including the likes of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille, Thabo Mbeke, and Charlize Theron.

The show, which was created by and based on the characters of iconic South African cartoonist Zapiro, is based on a two minute clip featuring a puppet Mandela produced by Zapiro and producer Thierry Cassuto in the late 1990’s. What happened between then and the shows debute in 2009, however, is worthy of a show in and of itself. (Keep reading as there is some great video footage below!)

In 1999, Zapiro was invited to attend the official garden party honoring Mandela’s departure from office. Despite heavy security, Zapiro was able to sneak the puppet into the exclusive VIP party and, much to the horror of the security guards and delight of the parliamentarians and ministers in attendance, approach Mandela with the puppet.  Without hesitation, Mandela reached out, shook the puppets hand and said: “Oh, I believe I have met this gentleman before!”

What happened next is both extremely odd, and oddly typical in South Africa. Shortly after the event, puppet Mandela was kidnapped right from the workshop where he was born and for almost a decade was not to be seen; that is, until a member of the new ZA News team “spotted the tiny face of Madiba in a photograph of a workshop specializing in mostly gore-ish creatures for feature films in the Johannesburg suburbs”.  According to the ZA News website, “A few weeks later, with the help of friends from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, wearing dark glasses and our most intimidating faces (we were actually quite scared as we didn’t know who were going to meet there), we raided the place and finally recovered the head of Nelson Mandela”.

Currently, the show is run entirely online and is sponsored by Kulula and the Mail and Guardian.  While the show was slated to air on national television in collaboration with SABC and and Etv, the plans were mysteriously scrapped. Apparently not all of the politicians in South Africa liked their puppets as much as Madiba.

I felt it fitting, therefore, to feature ZA News  as such websites depend tremendously on traffic, especially when many of the less favorably represented South African political figures (I.e. everyone besides Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu) would happily see this program shut down, which, should by no means happen.  Every country needs at least one good satire.  At the very least it will make people smile, possibly think, and with any luck, work harder to actively participate in creating change.

To give you a taste, here is the first episode from season 1! I encourage you all to watch and, if you like it, check out their website for more.

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Categories: Arts and Culture

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. South African President Jacob Zuma sues, well…everyone. « Notes from the Field - December 16, 2010

    […] To view some humorous renditions of Zuma, check out my post on Zapiro’s famous Puppetshow ZA News. […]

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