Joko Ya Hao, the short film inspired by the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

By Xabiso Ngqabe7 August 2020

Joko Ya Hao, the short film inspired by the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Joko Ya Hao, named after a popular hymn which translates to “your load”, is a 36-minute film set in Gracetown during the forced removals of black South Africans in the 1950s by the apartheid regime.

Simphiwe Dana plays Nozizwe, an aspiring preacher who, after failing to be ordained as a pastor because she is a woman, becomes a symbol of resistance and an anchor for the oppressed.

Joko Ya Hao tells her story, that of a Christian woman who leaves her village to seek help for her oppressed people. Written and directed by Mmabatho Montsho, the film features actors such as Jet Novuka and Sibulele Gcilitshana.

Simphiwe Dana’s astounding performance

The character of Nozizwe is an ode to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

This role is Simphiwe Dana’s second acting gig after her debut in the film Themba (2010). In Joko Ya Hao she nails this role with an incredible eloquence.

She captures the spirit, look and way of speaking of the late icon the way she was in the early days of apartheid, and she brings so much vibrant life to the character.

She looks and speaks just like how we would imagine the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was in the days of apartheid. Simphiwe Dana brings so much life into the Nozizwe character.

Her anguish and her love for God and the people are all embodied so perfectly in this short film. Her portrayal wins you over early on in the movie, so much that you sympathize with her and want to see what happens as the story unfolds.

The colour red

Almost every scene in this film is intensified by the colour red. Every other frame consists of a character either soaked in blood or wearing garments that are red.

From the red and white blouse worn by the women of the Methodist church to the heart-wrenching scene of Nonina holding her still-born baby wrapped in a towel, it is evident that Mmabatho is intentional with her use of the colour.

Red is often associated with not only love but danger, strength, power, determination, as well as passion and desire.

There is a scene right towards the end, after Nozizwe has been beaten. Her white blouse is bloodied, and the women from her church comfort her and dress her in her red and white uniform. From that act, Nozizwe gathers strength and gives an uplifting speech to her community.

That moment signifies not only the strength but also the depth and determination of black women in South Africa, even during the days of apartheid.

Staying true to the theme

From the behind the scenes images Mmabatho shared on Instagram, it looks like she lived the red theme during filming as well!

A woman’s story told by a female storyteller

Mmabatho Montsho is one of the most authentic and well-respected voices in the South African film industry. She is a brilliant writer and director who is fiercely committed to inspiring women to tell their stories.

She headhunted Simphiwe Dana as she knew the musician/actress would be perfect for the role. In her own right, Simphiwe is also very vocal about her views about the emancipation of women in society.

Awards aplenty

The movie was selected for screening at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in February. It was also nominated at the 2020 SAFTAs for Best Short Film. It’s the kind of movie every South African should watch.

It strings together a powerful narrative in such a short space of time that in the end, you will want to see more.

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