Umlando – Through My Father’s Eyes

04.14.10
Hugh Masekela
ESPN

ESPN to Present 10-Part Series During 2010 FIFA World Cup: Hugh and Sal Masekela Explore South Africa

ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup will feature a 10-part series that offers an introspective look at the country of South Africa through the eyes of one of the host nation’s renowned ambassadors. In Umlando (Zulu for “Through My Father’s Eyes”), jazz music legend and anti-Apartheid activist Hugh Masekela and his American-born son, Salema, an ESPN reporter for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, explore together the people, culture and inspiring landscapes of South Africa, and the nation’s history. 

The series captures aspects of the elder Masekela’s life, from memories of his childhood and learning the traditions of his ancestors to offering his impressions of living in South Africa under draconian Apartheid laws.  In Umlando, Sal, who serves as ESPN’s host for the X Games, joins his father to explore the 2010 FIFA World Cup host nation in one of American television’s first truly in-depth portrayals of traditional South Africa. The project also represents the first time the two Masekelas are partnering together on a major television project. 

“Of all the special elements being created for our coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Umlando will be the most evocative and emotional,” said Jed Drake, ESPN’s executive producer, 2010 FIFA World Cup.  “It is a rare and powerful opportunity to explore this remarkable place.  Our viewers will find Hugh and Salema’s journey fascinating, and memorable.”

Sal Masekela added:  “To take a road trip with my father through his native South Africa to get to know its culture and history has always been a lifelong dream. To be able to take the whole world on the journey through the watchful eyes of filmmaker Jonathan Hock has changed my life.  South African people are as unique and diverse as the country itself. I know the World Cup audience will feel the same way after riding shotgun with us on this adventure.”

Umlando was filmed in locations across South Africa in March. The series of 4-5-minute features will debut on ESPN Friday, June 11, and will air during FIFA World Cup studio programming on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Mobile TV and ABC throughout the month-long tournament (June 11 – July 11). Features will also be available on ESPN.com’s FIFA World Cup site.

Eight-time Emmy Award-winning director, writer and editor Jonathan Hock (Through the Fire, 2005 and The Streak, 2008) is producing Umlando. Hock’s last project for ESPN was The Lost Son of Havana (2009), the critically acclaimed documentary on Cuban-born pitcher Luis Tiant’s emotional return to his home country after 46 years in exile – 19 years of which he spent as a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and other teams.

Umlando – The 10-Part Series:

  • From LA to Ramogkopa:  Sal Masekela embarks on his journey to South Africa from Los Angeles.  Upon his arrival, he witnesses a special celebration at his father’s ancestral village of Ramogkopa, located on the Tropic of Capricorn.  From his cousin, King Ramogkopa (a Botlokwa chief), Sal receives a gift bestowed only to members of the royal family. The village also performs traditional dances in honor of his visit.
  • Sharpeville:  On the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre in this township near Johannesburg, Sal participates in the annual ceremonial “cleaning of the graves” where people gather at sunrise to pay tribute to the 69 people who were killed March 21, 1960, when the South African police opened fire on a peaceful anti-Apartheid protest.
  • Limpopoland:  Beyond the city of Polokwane (a FIFA World Cup host city) is the Limpopo province where a resilient group of native Africans live with some autonomy, just as they did during Apartheid. Hugh takes his son to this region where the elder Masakela’s ancestors were master farmers.
  • Hopane’s Farm: Hugh tells the story of how his grandfather’s farm was confiscated by the apartheid government of South Africa after declaring it a ‘black spot’ in a ‘whites only’ area under The Group Areas Act (1950).  With emotions and childhood memories from that experience still vivid, Hugh tells Sal it is a place he hasn’t been to in more than 60 years – a place where he will never return.  Sal feels the need to go there on his own, with memories of a great-grandfather he never knew in his head as he gazes upon the land that used to belong to his family.
  • Township Jazz in Alexandra-Sophiatown: The hot-bed of South African jazz where Hugh’s music career began at age 14 – after he got his first trumpet from Archbishop Trevor Huddleston – the anti-Apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School.  With the separation of races in educational institutions (Bantu Education Act of 1953), Huddleston closed the school. On the journey through Sophiatown, which was razed to the ground during Apartheid, Hugh points out the irony that the only building left standing is the church where Huddleston preached.
  • Witbank:  Hugh’s birthplace and early childhood home, Witbank is a mining town about 90 miles east of Johannesburg.  Hugh recounts comical and tragic childhood memories that inspired one of his greatest songs, “Stimela,” a narrative of the long train ride that brought migrant black coal mine workers from their rural homes to the mines.
  • Youth in Action:  In an area where the HIV rate is over 80% among adults, Hugh and Sal visit with inspiring young South Africans trying to educate underprivileged children with hopes of brightening their future.
  • God’s Window:  Sal journeys with Hugh to “God’s Window in Mpumalanga,” the third-largest canyon in the world and one of South Africa’s natural wonders.
  • In the Land of the Xhosa: Hugh leads Sal deep into the rural landscape to the hills where Nelson Mandela grew up.  A Xhosa queen welcomes Sal, where he is dressed in traditional regalia, fed traditional food and home-brewed sorghum beer, and participates in the dances of the people.
  • Zulu Nation:  Hugh and Sal visit a remote Zulu village where many still choose to live in “the old ways” of their legendary King Shaka – defiant and unyielding – miles beyond the nearest electricity and modern convenience.
  • About Hugh Masekela:
Legendary South African trumpeter, composer, singer, and anti-Apartheid activist
  • A member of South Africa's first youth orchestra at 14. 
  • He joined the orchestra for the musical King Kong in 1958
  • Left South Africa to study music abroad following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, heading first to London, then to the United States where he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music
  • 1968 Grammy nominated song “Grazin’ in the Grass” sold more than four million copies 
  • Released the critically acclaimed “Stimela,” a song about the coal train that transports black mine workers from the hinterlands to the mines, in 1994
  • 1987 hit single "Bring Him Back Home" became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela
  • Masekela launched his first tour of South Africa in 1991.  He has since returned and lives in South Africa
  • About Sal Masekela:
  • Host of ESPN’s X Games and Winter X Games
  • Co-host of E! network’s The Daily 10, a countdown of the day's top 10 entertainment stories
  • Avid surfer action sports aficionado. Described by some as the face and voice of action sports
  • Co-founder of Stoked Mentoring, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to mentoring at risk youth through actions sports