Takalani Sesame, which means “be happy Sesame” in Venda, is the South African version of the ground-breaking US children’s television programme Sesame Street. The show has been co-produced by Sesame Workshop and South African partners Department of Basic Education, SABC Education, and proudly sponsored by Sanlam, marking its milestone 20th anniversary on 31 July 2020.
Takalani Sesame follows the adventures of colourful Muppets Elmo, Zuzu, Kami, Moshe and Zikwe (recently joined by Basma and Jad) as the best friends explore their world while nurturing children’s readiness for school and life beyond. The show now reaches more than four million children a month and is recognised by 95 percent of South African households with young children.
This uniquely South African interpretation of the Sesame model engages children, and their parents, as it bridges cultural and educational issues with a fun programme and has had many firsts during its two decades on air.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Nane Annan have made guest appearances on the show which has won numerous plaudits including the Governor of Tokyo Prize in the Japan Prize contest, a George Foster Peabody Award, a Golden Hugo from the Chicago International Film Festival, the Gold Intermedia-Globe from the World Media Festival and the Rose d’Or Social Awareness Award.
Breaking through social barriers, in 2002 viewers were introduced to Kami, the world’s first HIV-positive Muppet who helped to reduce the fear and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. In 2003 UNICEF appointed Kami as a global Champion for Children.
Following Takalani Sesame’s premiere on SABC on July 31, 2000, the show rapidly became a major success, helping not only children (mainly between the ages of three and seven) to grasp essential developmental concepts through play, laughter and creativity, but also to teach thousands of mothers and caregivers regarding what a child’s mind requires as it grows to become a mindful member of a harmonious society.
The show incorporates all of South Africa’s 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ndebele, Sesotho, Northern Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda. Season 11 of the show began airing on SABC2 in June.