Popular South Africa Actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones to be awarded a “Living Legends Award” at the 2019 National Theatre Festival, in North Carolina, US.
Mtshali-Jones has previously won related awards such as Lifetime Achievement/Living Legends award a decade ago – she was honored in 2009 from the City of Durban and also honored with the Arts and Culture Trust in 2015.
”Reminiscing at the work that I have done to date and receiving these coveted awards, they all credited to the longevity I have accomplished in my career and are evidence of God’s breath of life on my journey in this business.”
“It is really about how long you can go and how long you can take your talent, and I am therefore a piece of evidence that you can take it as long as you want to,” she said.
The singer and playwright were introduced to the arts industry in 1972 when storyteller and poet Gcina Mhlophe launched her acting career.
Howbeit, before Mtshali-Jones career kick-started, she was a domestic worker at the Durban beachfront. With a passion for the arts, she engaged in a series of acting jobs – all that mattered was performing and money was not a factor.
“Acting was never seen as a real career during those years, all that concerned was the gratification involved while performing in front of a crowd to fulfill that longing. So when I performed for the first time, it didn’t even occur to me I could be taking this as a career,” she said.
Her dreams became reality when she found herself touring the world and performing in New York as part of the “Ipi Ntombi” cast.
“Those were the times when television was not in circulation and we solely had the theatre stage to produce these magical productions. That is why theatre will forever be my first love because that is where I was groomed and nurtured by the issues we encountered, portraying various characters on stage and learning harsh lessons that made us who we are,” she stressed.
She has featured in household programs such as “Stokvel” and Mzansi’s favorite “Sgudi Snaysi” in the 80s with legends such as Joe Mafela, Gloria Mudau and her longtime friend Daphney Hlomuka who passed away in 2008.
“Daphney was my childhood friend because we schooled together in KwaMashu. We grew up in the same community and we also worked together as domestic workers.”
“We began working together in the same production, our very first production ‘Umabatha’ before finding both ourselves on television where we created our family bond with mama Gloria and Joe Mafela. It was a magical time for us to grow on screen together because we didn’t know the result of the show and the growth it came with,” she reminisced.
Mtshali-Jones, 70, says she received her strength from her supporters who continue to substantiate her work.
“There is no one else in this world like you or capable of doing things the way you do. Our uniqueness is our strength and my younger self and many other budding talents in the industry must know that you are the best version of yourself because there is no other,” she concluded.
However, Mtshali-Jones will be performing her one-woman play, “Mother to Mother” written by Sindiwe Magona and directed by Janice Honeyman at the National Black Theatre Festival, which starts from July 29 – August 3 at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States.