Soap and orange juice - Scriptwriter Bongi Ndaba is living the dream
A BLACK family sitting at a table eating an English breakfast with orange juice sold Bongi Ndaba on Generations almost 20 years ago.
Three weeks ago the writer from Gamalakhe on the South Coast graduated from admirer of the characters' "aspirational lifestyles" to co-producer.
Ndaba, who was born in Eastern Cape 40 years ago, studied drama at the then Natal Technikon and, to please her mom, also completed a teaching diploma.
But, she says, she was convinced that TV was not for big girls and gravitated towards writing.
Shreds and Dreams, a collection of monologues she submitted to the Market Theatre when they invited youngsters to bring in new work, set her on that path.
"They came back to me and asked me to rewrite it into a play," she says.
Shreds and Dreams was so popular it also did a run at the State Theatre and a rerun at the Market.
Last year Ndaba was promoted to Generations head writer, which entails managing and taking ultimate responsibility for the script.
Her journey with the soap started nearly six years ago, when young writers were invited to join its training programme.
With self-effacing humility, Ndaba says: "I was more loudmouth than talent throughout my training, so I have no idea why they short-listed me for their internship programme. If I don't understand something I ask questions. I'm not scared to look stupid 'cos I know that once I know I won't be stupid anymore."
She operates from an Auckland Park house that has been converted into offices, where she watches Generations on live feeds as it is being shot - and the finished product on TV.
"I always think to myself, 'we could have written this or that better'," she says - and adds with typical humility: "English isn't my first language, so I'm critical of myself. I spot the mistakes I make, sometimes grammatical ones.
"I love Generations. I'd hate to work on a series where black people are shown kicking and stabbing each other. This shows blacks in a positive light. It's inspirational, that's why people love it."
Ndaba has worked with top writers on top productions such as Home Affairs and 4play;Sex Tips for Girls and the 2006 award-winning Jozi H.
She says now that she's living her dream she wants to try to raise the next crop of Generations writers.
"I was given a break and I want to give other writers a break. Even if I fail I want to know one day that I did my best to raise new black writers," she says.
So do you now have orange juice at your breakfast table?
"Who has orange at breakfast?" she asks. "I just insist that we have our meals around the table at home."
Ndaba has a two-year-old son.