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My Secret Sky

Sobahle Mkhabase plays Thembi in ‘Izulu Lami’. The young actress received the Best Actress Award at the main African Film Festival in Tarifa, Spain.

Sobahle Mkhabase plays Thembi in ‘Izulu Lami’. The young actress received the Best Actress Award at the main African Film Festival in Tarifa, Spain.

Everyone has a fantasy world of their own, where they can be who they want to be and be always happy – their own secret sky. The French Namibia Cultural Centre this week showed Izulu lami, ‘my secret sky’ in Zulu, a touching story about ten year old Thembi and her eight year old brother, Khwezi who are left orphaned because of HIV.
The two are abandoned by their aunt who sells their mother’s belongings and leaves them to fend for themselves in their rural homestead. Thembi having known their aunt’s greed and selfishness, hides one of her mother’s woven mats which was the best one she made before she died and had hoped to enter it in a craft competition in the city. The Zulu mat becomes the only thing that the two have to remind them of their mother.
They embark on a journey to the city of Durban in search of a white priest,’Umfundisi we Mulungu’ to go and sell the mat and get money for food. The two walk to the city, get on a train with the mat in hand and when they finally reach the city they find themselves lost not knowing where to find the white priest who wanted to buy the mat.
After being ridiculed by street vendors they meet ‘Chilli Bite’ a street kid with attitude and with all the connections and the knowledge of all the city corners. At first Chilli Bite makes fun of the two and calls them ‘country bumpkins’ but then the three develop an unusual friendship and Chill Bite agrees to take them to the white priest as he knows all the white people in the city.
Chilli Bite not only becomes their friend but also their protector and provider and introduces them to the life on the streets and to other street kids. However he has a dirty secret that ends up putting the life of Thembi in danger when she is almost raped by one of Chilli Bite’s connections. She escapes and sets the man’s room on fire. This leaves Thembi very angry with Chilli Bite and she decides to stay away from him.
Life in the city gets too much for Khwezi and he decides to burn the mat because he feels that it was the only thing that was keeping them in the city and he wants to go home. This angers Thembi who by then had found the white priest. She then runs away from her brother and after crying over the mat finds sweet wrappers which she uses to make artefacts and takes them to the craft shop where she gets money for her and Khwezi to go back home.
The film ends with the two walking together and Khwezi asking if their mother had been watching over them while they were in the city to which Thembi replies “Yes, Mama is and will always be watching over us”.
Izulu lami is a heart rendering tale of suffering and redemption showing the lives of street children and that of children who are left vulnerable because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The three characters are well-played as it does indeed show the innocence of childhood and leaves the viewer with a sense of hope. Izulu lami is South Africa’s own ‘slum dog millionaire’.

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