7 Facts About Sarafina!
Since the advent of democracy, the commemorations of the events of the Soweto uprisings have been synonymous with one word: Sarafina! Sarafina! Is a coming of age play and film about a girl named Sarafina. It’s set against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa during the state of emergency in the mid-1980s and draws on the student riots of 1976 and later in history.
Here are seven interesting facts about the film as well as the play.
- Sarafina! first opened at The Market Theatre in 1987. The play then moved to Broadway where it was it premiered on January 28, 1988 and finally closed on July 2. In that time, the play was very well-received by Broadway audiences.
- Sarafina! was nominated for five Tony awards in the categories of Best Featured Actress in a Musical (for Leleti Khumalo), Best Original Score, Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography. The stage cast performed at the 1988 Tony awards. Other award nominations included a Drama Desk awards nomination in the category of Outstanding Music.
- The music was composed and arranged by Mbongeni Ngema, he has said he wanted to make a musical that had an unmistakable mbhaqanga sound. Hugh Masekela, then living in London, is credited as having provided “additional music.” The title song, after which the stage production and film were named, was Masekela’s creation. As is “Sechaba”
- Sarafina! was a commercial failure in North America. But it has, since its release, earned cult status with the South African audience.
- When it was filmed, in 1992, Sarafina! became the first film to be shot in a South African township. Other movies that had scenes “set” in a township, such as 1987’s Cry Freedom, were filmed on sets.
- Sarafina! opened far and wide in South Africa, from township theatres to those in the then whites only areas. At the time, it had the highest opening weekend of a South African film ever.
- Mbongeni Ngema and British screenwriter William Nicholson worked on the screenplay to expand the story. On stage, Sarafina! had been all about the music and dance numbers but needed just a little meat to grasp the screen audiences.
Of all the Sarafina! songs, which is your favourite?