In "Love and Kwaito", Sacrifices are Rewarded

Set in Kliptown, Love and Kwaito gives the viewer a glimpse into the lives of two siblings who, having been orphaned at an early age, strive to make the best out of their lives. In Kliptown, Love (Lerato Kala) is working hard to pass Matric while also making sure that her brother Kwaito (Siphiwe Radebe) is well taken care of. With some help from their neighbour Sis Rumbi (Maduvha Madima) and Love’s teacher Mrs Mthembu (Lucia Mthiyane), the children get by just fine.

The children’s parents, who passed away after years of alcohol abuse, are an ever-present spectre in their lives. When elders in the community suggest getting help from social workers, Love resists because she knows that that would mean separating from Kwaito. Kwaito has nightmares about being forced to leave his sister, but Love promises him that wherever she goes, he goes. She is adamant that she will not continue the pattern of abandonment that her parents started.

In one of the moments when she is particularly despondent, Love thinks back to the times when her mother chose to spend money on alcohol rather than food. This, along with the memory of having to go to the local shebeen to drag her parents back home, shows the underlying resentment that Love has towards her parents. Instead of dwelling in that feeling, Love channels her frustration into school work and planning for her and Kwaito’s future.

Most of the action in Love’s life takes place in the conversations she has with her two best friends on their walks home from school. In these conversations, Love finds comfort and support, and the encouragement to keep working towards a better life.
In contrast to the stress that Love is under, Kwaito’s life is that of an optimistic, carefree young boy. One of his favourite things is sweets, and he never forgets to ask Love for istoksweet whenever she sends him to buy bread. Kwaito realises that his family circumstances are different from those of his friends, but as long as he has his sister with him, he is happy. He wears his father’s old hat, saying it brings him luck. In reality, it is just a child’s way of preserving the memory of his parents, no matter how imperfect they may have been. Kwaito holds onto family in another way as well: at school, instead of shying away from the topic of grandmothers because he does not have one, Kwaito invents a grandmother for himself, giving her a vibrant personality and a fancy car to boot.

Love plays the hand that life has dealt her with patience and a wisdom beyond her years. In an environment where she could easily be taken advantage of by a predatory teacher, or lose faith in herself and her dreams due to a lack of family support, Love manages to focus on the bigger picture. In the end, it is her perseverance and sacrifice which open up an opportunity for her to finish school, take care of her brother, and still make strides towards achieving her goal of one day becoming a teacher.

The film explores themes of sacrifice, community, family, perseverance and love. The story is familiar, seeing as the issue of child-headed households is still a very real one in South Africa. However, the actors’ compelling performances update it for today’s audience. The script is touching in the way that it stays true to the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, thereby drawing empathy from the viewer.

That the film exists is a testament to the hard work and passion of  Zwane and her business partner, Salamina Mosese, whose production company  (Sorele Media) aims to put out work that speaks to core value of providing “media content for Africans by Africans”. With Love and Kwaito, their first full-length feature, Zwane and Mosese have shown that with vision and a lot of tenacity, anything is possible.


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