A Jewish presence in Southern Africa can be traced as far back as Fernao Martins, a “converso” who was selected by Vasco da Gama to be his translator on his first voyage to India.
Since then, Jewish immigrants and their descendants have left their mark on this country in many ways. There have been doctors and lawyers and rabbis and parliamentarians. There have been smouse, diamond-diggers, industrialists and Randlords. Jewish 1820 Settlers, who knew? Renegade Boer War commandos, you’re telling me? Nobel prize-winners and Peruvnik prostitutes; shysters and social workers; artists and activists, machers, musicians, meshuggeners, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers! All these are part of the rich complexity of Jewish life at the southern tip of Africa. Oh, and the first recorded prescription of chicken soup in a king’s kraal…
Legends and Legacies is the most comprehensive account of the South African Jewish Community ever attempted on screen. Conceived and produced by Mark Wade of Media Metropolis and written and presented by Alan Swerdlow, the eight-part documentary series is a careful consideration of how the community came to be and found its shared identity. The makers crossed the country, uncovering little-known stories of the community as they established themselves at the foot of Africa, and found both joy and sadness and remarkable achievement both in the major cities and the small villages in which the Jewish immigrants sought a new life.
Legends and Legacies is the proud story of the achievements, aspirations, setbacks and recovery of a small community that defied the odds.