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The Dramaturge: Lunga Radebe, the writer with a vision for South African TV

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The Dramaturge: Lunga Radebe, the writer with a vision for South African TV

Lunga Radebe is a South African actor, director and screenwriter from Soweto, Johannesburg. He obtained his Honours degree in Dramaturgy from the University of Witwatersrand as a 2007 Mandela Rhodes scholar and later, a Masters in the same field from Columbia University in the United States. Currently, Lunga is the Script Editor on various television productions including one of South Africa’s most-watched television shows, Skeem Saam

Published 5 October 2023

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Carving out a career in South Africa’s comparatively small arts industry has made Lunga something of an entrepreneur. From the beginning, he knew his path would not be like that of his peers: there would be no comfortable office job on the other side of his studies. He threw himself head-first into writing proposals for theatre projects and internships. Lunga embraces the process of shapeshifting and reimagination that being a career artist requires. Studying abroad, he was the only international student in his programme. He challenged himself to make the move from working in the theatre to television writing, which reaches a much wider audience. These shifts and changes made Lunga a firm believer in being the architect of his own experience.

In the long term, Lunga would like to create a thriving film and television industry in South African provinces that aren’t well represented in the media, as a means to promote indigenous languages that are not commonly seen on public broadcast television. “

I’m passionate about the Ndebele people and Mpumalanga. It would be so great to have TV studios there to tell their stories. I would just love to go around the country doing projects like that. There are so many possibilities now in television.”

He also would like to see South African artists unionise so that they can be paid more fairly for their work. The concentration of power in the hands of a few in the arts industry make it so that very few perspectives are represented and the industry is not well-regulated because “people who run institutions run them forever.”

Being a part of Nelson Mandela’s legacy means a great deal to Lunga. He recalls meeting him during his time in residence and being struck by the gentle towering figure he was. It reaffirmed to him that anything is possible and within reach.

“We are continually trying to find and redefine ourselves in this world that we’ve created. I am more understanding of this world right now than when I was back then, and simply because it (the scholarship) afforded me the opportunity to engage those contradictions and redefine them for myself.”

The complexity embedded in the Mandela Rhodes name has allowed him think deeply on questions of reconciliation and where he fits into that puzzle. He says it has been an ongoing conversation with himself that has been negotiated and renegotiated over time.

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