Televisual Land, Place and Space: the representation and contextualisation of townships in post-apartheid South African Television, a case study of selected episodes from Skeem Saam (2011- ) and uZalo (2015-)

Kemp, Roystan Duwayne
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Even though television is so common and part of our domestic routines, the apparatus has received little academic attention in comparison to the film medium. Both film and television are audio-visual mediums, nevertheless, it is film which received comparatively more academic enquiry. Scholars have argued that television, “the domestic box”, is unworthy of academic enquiry and that its image making (cinematography) is inferior in comparison to that of film, with its panoramic “big screen” at the cinema complex. This study returns to those debates about the relevancy of television and its aesthetics. The core aim of this research paper is to analyse Skeem Saam (2011-) Season One Episode One and uZalo (2015-) Season One Episode One with a focus on their cinematography and the manner in which the township landscape has been represented. My approach is qualitative. I observed the phenomenon of both episodes and analysed them according to Lukinbeal’s (2005) analysis of Andrew Higson’s (1984, 1987) taxonomy of how landscapes function on screen. By analysing the cinematographic and representational attributes of the two episodes, I argue how the two episodes of the two productions’ decision to film in the exterior side of the township has implications for the social cohesion and sense of community (ubuntu) with which townships in South Africa have become known for as opposed to always being perceived as places of violence, crime and poverty. The two episodes of the two productions do not follow the repertoires of most film and television productions which predominantly film in studio or in the townships of Soweto in Johannesburg or Khayelitsha in Cape Town. Ultimately, the analysis of the two episodes and their findings engage with the idea that television is an object capable of sustaining cinematographic attention (the ability to incorporate innovative image-making techniques even though the screen is smaller than that of a cinema complex) and worth academic enquiry
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Film and Television by Research, 2021