Everything you need to know about Showmax’s sizzling new show, Blood Psalms

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A still from the series Blood Psalms.
A still from the series Blood Psalms.
Photo: MultiChoice

It’s a question that took the world by storm when Black Panther became a box office hit: What if African countries had never been conquered and colonized? Now, local filmmakers will give viewers a glimpse of that reality in a brand-new show.

Set 11 000 years ago, Blood Psalms tells the story of a fierce teenage African queen, Zazi, who battles a world-ending prophecy to navigate her people through complexities, politics, and endless wars. Award-winning creative duo Layla Swart and Jahmil X.T Qubeka are the brains behind the series, which started filming in April. 

“Blood Psalms is an epic that creates and proposes a world of fantasy and high adventure rooted in African mythology and the preservation of the African identity,” Layla says. “The goal, for us, is to ensure the golden thread of Africa’s stunning history shines. The story not only entertains, but also contributes to the preservation of African culture and languages as authentically told by Africans, to be enjoyed by the world,” she adds.

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The 11-part series boasts a cast full of stars including Vusi Thanda, Warren Masemola, Zikhona Sodlaka and Sello Maake Ka Ncube. Layla says every actor they selected “brings their unique ability to authentically translate this magical epic onto the screen”. Although the show is targeted at all Africans, it is proudly South African and will be available to stream from Showmax in 2021.

Here’s what you need to know.

Location, location, location

Produced by Yellowbone Entertainment in partnership with the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, Layla says locations were scouted based on the vision for the show. “We have shot at Hole in the Wall in Gwadana, in Graaf Reinet, and we are also shooting at a cave site in the North West province and in Bez Valley and in Modderfontein reserve Gauteng at our studio location.”

The costumes

You’d be wrong for thinking you’ll see African royalty in loin cloth and spears. The costumes on Blood Psalms are designed by award-winning designer Pierre Vienings, who after extensive research, fused various African styles. “We wanted to explore a vast canvas of different cultures and steer clear of simply opting for the loincloth and spear aesthetic. These are thriving kingdoms, with intricate styles.”

The set

Production designer Chantel Carter worked very closely with Jahmil to bring the world to life. “We have many sets, multiple locations in multiple provinces. With vast locations, much inspiration was drawn from ancient African mythology,” Layla says. “Many months were spent on this research and we intend to portray a vision of ancient Africa that is fantastical but infused with genuine information and legend.”

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Talking the talk

“We are using multiple African languages because we are making this piece of work as a testament to the authenticity that is possible when content is made by Africans for Africans first and foremost,” she says. “There is a responsibility to preserve languages and heritage, and therefore something set 11 000 years ago in Africa mustn't be depicted in English.”

Meet the Blood Psalms Full Cast List:

  • Albert “Ibokwe” Khoza - Madlamini, Zazi’s Governess
  • Andile Nebulane - King Ntuka
  • Awethu Hleli - Ilitye
  • Ayanda Daweti - Pee-Erot
  • Ayanda Makayi - Kike
  • Bokang Phelane - Princess Zazi
  • Bongile Mantsai - Hlengu
  • Chuma Sopotela - the Crazed Uchawi Witchdoctor
  • Daniel Hadebe - Pangool
  • Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa – Umna
  • Faith Baloyi - Queen Assilli
  • Faniswa Yisa - Mother Superior, Keeper of Ancient Secrets
  • Hamilton Dlamini - Qotha
  • Harry Imoru - Akachi Soldier
  • Hlubi Mboya - Ndiya Zazi
  • Hybre Taljaard – Serpentine Elemental 2
  • Khanya Mkangisa - Heka Nymph
  • Khayakazi Kula - Ncedisa
  • Khulu Skhenjana - Mahlathini, The Main Guard
  • Lemogang Tsipa - Xhosa, a young warrior
  • Lukhanyo Sikwebu - Akachi Soldier
  • Luyolo Mngonyama - Serpentine Elemental
  • Mandisa Nduna - Burruti
  • Mocheko J Nkoana - the Blind Clown
  • Mothusi Makgano plays King Letsha
  • Niza Jay - Teborah an Uchawi Prince
  • Richard Lukunku - the mysterious Senator Jabari
  • Sdumo Mtshali - Commander Lekoya
  • Sello Maake Ka Ncube – King Letsha’s uncle, Nkamanzu
  • Sello Motloung - the Ancient Monarch
  • Sibusiso Kotelo - Akachi Soldier
  • Simbarashe Gozo - Black Horus
  • Siv Ngesi - Onyo, Lord of the Netherworld
  • Soso Rungqu – Lala, the wife of Qotha
  • Stevel Marc - Akachi Soldier
  • Thabo Rametsi - Ahadi
  • Thando Thabethe - God Heka
  • Thandy Matlaila - Nonceba
  • Thembekile Komani plays Mzinzi the Overseer, son of Mother Superior
  • Thishiwe Ziqubu - Kuthala
  • Tumie Ngumla - Thozama
  • Unathi Platyi - Nyadenga
  • Vangile Zwakala - Chini Child
  • Vusi Thanda - Chief Xemantsu
  • Warren Masemola - Mfengetho, Royal Aide
  • Zikhona Sodlaka - Sithenjwa, Mistress to the Great Senator of
  • Nziwemabe
  • Zolisa Xaluva - General Toka

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