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New Muppets charm African auds

Moshe, Zuzu, Neno, Zikwe created through gov't grant

JOHANNESBURG — The Muppets have gone African, and are also set, for the first time anywhere in the world, to become radio stars.

Thanks to a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Agency for Intl. Development, the Jim Henson Co. has created a show specially for South African television audiences, “Takalani Sesame” (“Be Happy, Sesame” in the Tshivenda language).

Four African Muppets — Moshe, Zuzu, Neno and Zikwe, who variously speak Zulu, English, Afrikaans, Sesotho and Setswana — have been crafted by the Sesame Workshop in New York for the 65 half-hour episodes.

The program is designed to expose South African children to literary and life skills.

As a unique adjunct, the shows are being adapted to radio, as the overwhelming majority of South Africans — particularly in rural areas — do not have access to television.

The TV programs began airing in early August; the radio shows, to be sent out on three ethnic radio channels, will begin airing in October.

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