'Shaka Ilembe is an affirmation for me' - says rising star Ziya Xulu

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Ziya Xulu is one of the stars on Shaka Ilembe.
Ziya Xulu is one of the stars on Shaka Ilembe.

She's from Pietermaritzburg. And they're known for not speaking IsiZulu phaqa. She also went to former Model C schools.

All of these form part of her identity, but over the years they've been weaponized against her.

"There are people who will make you feel like you are not Zulu enough. People will say that because ungahambi umhlanga or because you do not come from the rural areas, then you're not Zulu enough.

"To be part of production like this feels wonderful. Shaka is so affirming for me. It lets know me that I am enough. It makes me feels like I have done my part as a Zulu girl," she says.

Ziya (24) says being part of such a show is something she will always be proud of.

"No matter where I go and what I achieve in life, being part of this production will always be top five. Even when I make it in Hollywood, Shaka will always be a highlight."

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She loves working with such an accomplished cast.

"Everyone is so amazing. These are people I grew up watching and now I get to work with them.

"My trailer was next to Nomzamo's trailer and I remember one day I was told someone had to quickly use my trailer just to change quickly and I said cool. As I asked who was in my trailer, Vusi Kunene walked out and I said 'yho Jack Mabaso' and we all laughed.

"I used to tell my mom who much I loved Thandeka on Isibaya. Now I play her bosom buddy in Shaka. She is starting to feel like a big sister, even in real life."

She would still like to work with Nolwazi Shange.

"More than just ticking a box, I feel like I could learn so much from her. Internationally, I would love work with Tyler Perry. He's an inspiring creative. I believe I am also multi-faceted too. I love his ability to transform, how he can be himself while wearing so many hats."

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She's previously been on other productions like Isithembiso.

If she wasn't the thespian that she is, she would be a radio personality. 

"I am inspired by Anele Mdoda. I just love her so much. She is incredible and I respect her so much as a broadcaster. I love everything about her. People always say they see the similarities between us, we're both big, loud and have gaps between our teeth. Through Shaka, I was able to meet her, and she's as incredible as I thought." 

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