When film reflects on the role of black soldiers in World War 1

By Sharon Kavhu

HARARE – South African film, Troupes of War: Diturupa which is expected to premier this month is a reflection of the role of black South African soldiers in World War 1.

The 67-minute motion picture will be premiered during a festival that started from the 1st of June and will run until the 11th of June.

Troupes of War follows the journey of an award winning journalist and author Lucas Ledwaba whose journey takes him back to World War 1.

Ledwaba’s journey was inspired by his childhood pastime, an annual troupes festival called Diturupa which takes place in Makapanstad, a peri-urban community in the North West Province, 80 kilometers North of Pretoria, South Africa.

The award winning journalist was piqued by the tradition which for decades has been staged in military regalia and Scottish kilts.

His journey takes him back to the war when black African men returned home from Europe with memories of the war.

“My journey took me to historians in Pretoria, Cape Town and Germany where research has been showing a painful past for black soldiers who fought in the Great War,” said Ledwaba who also co-directed the film.

Behind the electric Diturupa Festival lies a wretched past on how the black soldiers were treated as sub human at the battlefront, thousands of miles away from home.

Producer Francis Hweshe said they are thrilled that the film has also been picked up by powerhouse African festivals such as the Durban International Film Festival and Zanzibar International Film festival.

“It is important for Africans to watch a film that is told from their own perspective,” added Hweshe.

In a separate interview, the film’s director Davison Mudzingwa told The Southern Times that Troupes of War: Diturupa has an array of characters that add depth to the issue.

“These include descendants of soldiers that perished in what remains the biggest South African naval tragedy when more than 600 of the men perished when the SS Mendi, the ship carrying them to Europe collided with another in the English Channel on 21 February 1917,” added Mudzingwa.

“The fact that this film is released 100 years after the SS Mendi tragedy is significant and we hope the audiences will learn a lot about the participation of black soldiers during World War 1 and 2,”he said.

The documentary film was produced by Mvura Ya Afrika Productions and Mukurukuru Media.

June 2017
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