Inside the world of South African youth


The second season of youth drama series Snake Park is set to air on SABC2 this
July. Named after a popular Durban skate park, the series, through its carefully
crafted narrative, confronts the social struggles faced by South African youths on a
daily basis.

“We are deliberately tackling issues that affect the youth from all walks of life –
broken homes, child-led households, drugs and teenage pregnancy,’ says series
producer Carmel Nayanah of Johannesburg-based production house Welela Studios.
“The idea has always been to get inside of the world of the South African child or
teenager. Do you know what your children are dealing with, how they feel, the
challenges that they face? If so, are we as a society equipped to help them?’
The main themes of the series incorporate teen social awareness, family values,
forgiveness and compassion. Nayanah, having spent ample time with the kids of the
real Snake Park, comments, “Their parents don’t know where they are because they
don’t care (white, black, rich and poor) and often times they are hanging out at the
park or beach because they have nowhere else to go, or because their home
environment is so unpleasant.’

Snake Park emanates from a 2007 SABC Research and Development brief into
exploring the issues around fatherhood in SA. The concept for the series was
originally created by the late Morgan Naidoo for Welela Studios. The SABC
commissioned the pilot later that year and the first series was commissioned in
2014. This was made possible by the Department of Social Development funding the
project. The collaboration between the South African Broadcasting Corporation
(SABC) and the Department of Social Development is key as the drama is used as a
vehicle to fulfil the public broadcasting mandate for children and it incorporates key
social development issues.

Season 2’s storyline picks up three months after the first season – which was
directed by Darrell Roodt – and stars local talents Edwin Gagiano, Junior Miya,
Thomie Holtzhausen, Mishqah Parthiephal and new cast members Tiisetso Thoka
and Crystal Buys.

Head writer and series director Deon Potgieter worked closely with some young,
up-and-coming television writers – Musawenkosi Ntuli, Sifiso Ndlovu, Lehlohonolo
Nayama, Themba Mncube and Akona Matyila – to develop an action-packed series
filled with drama and good humour, while at the same time grooming these young
writers and thus adding to the fundamental youth development principle of the

Set in the exhilarating world of skateboarding and surfing in KwaZulu-Natal’s
Durban, the 13-episode series was filmed on location in Durban and Johannesburg
over four weeks. Nayanah explains that the “surfer-grunge’ prescribed look and feel
meant that a lot of handheld, stylised shots were incorporated to create the youthful
energy that the show demands, “…vibrant colours, progressive shot choices,
warm/sun-based colours because we’re on the beach, and action shots set the tone
for season two…In the edit we use a lot of artbeat overlay.’
DOP William Collinson captured the cinematic visuals with two Canon EOS 5D MK III
cameras. “We had a great crew and everybody was prepared to go the extra mile
to “make art’ and that I found very gratifying,’ says Potgieter.
The city of Durban’s extraordinarily picturesque and vibrant backdrop, against which
the drama unfolds serves to juxtapose the gloomy and often dark themes of the
series, “We made good use of colour and light and created beautiful pictures.
There’s definitely an international feel and more of a cinematic vibe than what one
often sees on television…My fellow directors Byron Davis and Nobuntu-Sizolibusa
Dubazana also brought their enthusiasm and talents to the production to make the
show something truly spectacular.’

Snake Park is not the first youth-focused, educational, South African programme
endeavoring to tackle the social issues demoralising our country’s youth. Issues
such as alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, rape, drugs and divorced parents, are
addressed regularly on television shows both locally and internationally. Nayanah
says that while this may be true, it is the way in which Snake Park delivers its
message to the target audience that sets the series apart from other youth
programmes, “…many of them are “preachy’ and “in your face’,’ she says. “The
concept of Snake Park is to attempt to reach the youth through story and through
an entertaining medium.’

Written by Chanelle Ellaya


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