Share Their Story

Amy Heydenrych (34)

Writer Amy Heydenrych describes herself as “a midwife of ideas.”

Her short stories and poems have been published in anthologies including Brittle Paper, The Kalahari Review and Short Sharp Stories, and her debut thriller, Shame On You, was published this year. The novel unpacks the impact of public shaming, and is the first in a two-book deal with international publishers Bonnier Zaffre. She has also been shortlisted twice for the Miles Morland African Writing Scholarship.

“I worked at being a writer for many years, and it took years of perseverance to finally get an international publishing deal,” she says. “The process has taught me that the dream is not actually ‘getting published,’ but becoming the best writer I can be. I am hoping that my path as an author will inspire fellow young South Africans to persevere in their writing careers, and to see that with hard work and patience, absolutely anything is possible.”

Heydenrych runs her own company, called Story, where she blogs to promote female and South African authors, as she’s a fierce champion of local fiction. When she isn’t working on her own ideas, Heydenrych is a ghostwriter for other people who have a story to tell but don’t have the right words to do it well. She also works with fiction writers to refine the first drafts of their manuscripts and prepare them for pitching.

“I have learned so much about writing and editing through my process of being published, and I hope to share my skills with aspiring young South African writers. Whether one is a writer or a reader, I believe that stories hold immense power to teach, engage and drive empathy,” she says.

She ghost writes material for companies too. “I take the ideas of a business owner or individual and bring them into the world using words that will resonate with readers, using my skill as a writer to help people express themselves,” she says. While creative and corporate writing may seem an unlikely marriage, Heydenrych believes they are complementary.

“My fiction side allows me to look at projects from a fresh, creative perspective and my corporate training ensures I apply a strong structure to everything I write or edit. Ultimately, all written content needs to reach its audience using a tone and language that resonates with them.” — Lesley Stones

Author -
A Tribe Called Story (23-26)

A Tribe Called Story (23-26)

Film production company

A Tribe Called Story is a production company started by three filmmakers: Aluta Qupa, Mbalizethu Zulu and Thembalethu Mfebe.

They met as interns in M-Net’s Magic in Motion Academy in 2015 and decided to start their own business after participating in a MultiChoice Enterprise Development Start-Up Bootcamp, where they excelled in a challenge to identify innovative solutions for digital content.

The trio aims to create content for and about young South Africans by telling stories of their generation. So far they have produced three commissioned movies for prime-time broadcast on Mzansi Magic: Moratuwa, Umqhele and Unkosikazi Wokuqala, which were all well-received by audiences. They believe the depth and quality of their work rivals that of far more experienced and better resourced filmmakers, and that their skills coupled with their grit, passion and impact will lead to major success. To pay forward the opportunities, they hire young filmmakers to work on their projects, rather than use the industry’s old hands.

Qupa (25) had previously worked for different production houses including Bomb Shelter, Ferguson Films and Urban Brew, and was nurtured by some of the finest creatives in the industry. “I always wanted to start my own production company but that was a goal I thought I would only be able to achieve after 10 years of experience,” she says.

“This initiative has been life-altering. I have grown as a person, as a creative and as an entrepreneur. I went from trying to find a job to being determined to create jobs for others. My passion is to tell our African stories. Having the ability to educate, entertain and influence society and make a difference gives me quite an adrenaline rush.”

Mfebe (26) created a short film in 2015 that won awards at the Durban International Film Festival, Shnit, Short & Sweet Film Festival and Black Filmmakers Film Festival. After graduating from the M-Net Academy, he joined the directing team at Muvhango, which attracts millions of viewers each night. He has been responsible for the artistic vision for the films produced by the Tribe, and while he largely focuses on directing and writing, he is equally proficient in camera and post-production work.

Zulu (23) has written for the award-winning soapie Isibaya and has been nominated for two South African Film and Television Awards. — Lesley Stones

Sipumzo Lucwaba (33)

Sipumzo Lucwaba (33)

Musician, director and composer

Watching Disney musicals like Aladdin and The Lion King steered Sipumzo Lucwaba towards his career choice.
“I’ve always had a passion for musicals, even before I knew what musical theatre was,” he says. “Songs such as Prince Ali, Friend Like Me, and Be Prepared have always had a place in my heart.”

Lucwaba turned that childhood passion into his future, starting by teaching himself the bass guitar to help out at church singalongs. He went on to study at Wits University and was trained in his craft by musicians such as Carlo Mombelli, Malcolm Nay, Jonathan Crossley and Bryan Schimmel. Even before he completed his degree in music he had been cast to play the bass in the professional shows Dreamgirls and Dirty Dancing, and his love affair with musicals flourished.

Since then he has played in The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret and Funny Girl produced by the Fugard Theatre, and has joined the crew in the annual Janice Honeyman pantomimes for Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty.

He has also worked as the musical director for local artist KB Motsilanyane, toured locally and abroad with singer/songwriter Sabelo Mthembu, and has played as a studio musician for various other artists.

Lucwaba not only plays music, he also arranges it, and has carried out transcriptions and arrangements for various corporate events including Jacaranda Pops, Skouspel 2013 and the South African Music Awards celebration in 2013.
In 2015 he began working with the respected composer and musical director Charl Johan Lingenfelder, and became the musical director of the Fugard Theatre’s revival of the Todd Matshikiza classic, King Kong. The show played in Cape Town and Johannesburg to rave reviews and his work on the production earned Lucwaba and Lingenfelder a joint nomination for Best Musical Director in the Naledi Theatre Awards.

“In future I really hope to create more local musical theatre. As a nation we definitely have the talent, but it would be great if we could get the belief we need from producers and other financial stakeholders,” Lucwaba says.
“Building great musical theatre is a very expensive and time-consuming endeavour, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt through being part of the King Kong creative team, it’s that it’s worth it.” — Lesley Stones

Nick Mulgrew (28)

Nick Mulgrew (28)

Writer and publisher

Literature in South Africa is an exciting space, but it’s fundamentally broken for several reasons, says author and publisher Nick Mulgrew.

Many flaws were caused by apartheid, and others are caused by literary professionals accepting the status quo and not pushing boundaries. To help change the face of South African literature, Mulgrew founded a publishing house, uHlanga, to focus on new, experimental and classic works of Southern African poetry.

“To make sure that people can see themselves on the bookshelf. To make sure that all forms of literature — poetry, in my case — can be accessible and appreciated,” he says. “I do all of the commissioning, most of the editing, and all of the design for all our collections.”

In the past year it has published 10 books, including Collective Amnesia, a debut collection of poetry from Koleka Putuma. Mulgrew himself holds a Thomas Pringle Award for Short Fiction and a National Arts Festival Short Sharp Stories Award. His collections of short stories are Stations, The First Law of Sadness and The Myth Of This Is That We’re All In This Together, his first poetry collection.

His stories are a blend of comedy and despair set in South Africa’s dingiest suburbs, with killer eagles, tattoo removal parlours, punk guitarist-auditors, turtle sanctuaries, plane crashes, amateur pornographers and biltong-makers. The First Law of Sadness was named one of the books of the year by the Sunday Times last year.

He started out in journalism, but finds fiction a much richer field. “The truth isn’t stranger than fiction — at its best, fiction should be stranger. Otherwise, what’s the point?” he asks. “My fiction explores the intimate and personal ways that South African society — and white South African society in particular — operates.”

It’s important, though, that this writing doesn’t seem polemic but is readable, well-written and engages with society in an oblique way, he says. “That’s something a lot of young South African writers are having trouble with balancing. Life is political, and literature is political inherently. But politics can’t lead the story. The story must lead the politics,” he says.

Next in his pipeline is a novel set between South Africa and New Zealand, where he lived for a while when he was younger. He is also the fiction editor for the literary magazine, Prufrock, which he co-founded, and head of communications for PEN South Africa, an organisation representing writers of the world, defending free expression and encouraging literature. — Lesley Stones

Sechaba Gqeba (30)

Sechaba Gqeba (30)

TV presenter

Listeners familiar with the voice of Sechaba Gqeba are enjoying the visuals as well, as this popular radio presenter has now switched over to TV.

Gqeba has been hosting the female-friendly show Motswako on SABC 2 since April. “I thoroughly enjoy hosting this talk show, which primarily focuses on telling the phenomenal stories of women from all walks of life,” she says. “It definitely is an important voice for women, and to be at the forefront of a show of its kind is humbling. I’ve always been passionate about women and the issues that they face, so the opportunity came at the perfect time.”

The move saw her give up her weekday show on Kfm, which she had presented for three years. “I’m taking a short break. I would like to focus on TV and my speaking commitments before finding a new home on radio,” she says. Radio will always be her first love, but after 10 years in the industry she believed it was important to transition and develop new skills.

Gqeba is also a voice-over artist for companies such as Woolworths, Audi and Engen and she MCs various functions, with her list including Cape Town Carnival and Mariah Carey’s Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour.

She describes herself as a small town girl with big city ambitions who discovered her love for radio on a field trip to the National Arts Festival, where she was selected for a radio workshop.

Her career began in community radio, and a bigger break came through a radio talent show on Highveld 94.7, which catapulted her into commercial radio. After reading the news on SAfm and Radio 2000, her ambition drove her to create her own show, and the opportunity came with Kaya FM.

Motswako addresses pertinent issues such as female empowerment and women’s leadership, with a strong focus on informing while entertaining. “What attracted me to the show is the vision behind Motswako. It provides women with a platform to unapologetically speak their truth, and propels them to shed light on matters that women can relate to. The vision and purpose of the show truly speak to who I am and represent my passion for uplifting women.” — Lesley Stones

Sphumelele Sibeko (33)

Sphumelele Sibeko (33)

Head of Reality & Entertainment, M-Net

Fans of TV shows like Date My Family, Utatakho and Yobe have Sphumelele Sibeko to thank for helping to develop and bring these much-loved productions to life on M-Net.

Sibeko is the head of Reality & Entertainment at M-Net, and it’s her job to source and develop local content for channels like Mzansi Magic, 1 Magic and Channel O, working alongside her team of commissioning editors. “This environment is so much fun,” she says. “Every day we work with producers and talent across the country to create and source the best entertainment for our audiences. What’s been important for me is that we give our people a voice. A voice that’s varied, that’s dynamic, that is funny, that is heartbreaking, that is full of learnings, that has character. A voice that moves people,” she says.

Sibeko initially studied marketing, attaining a marketing degree from Wits University then working at Unilever for three years. But itchy feet and bigger ambitions took her to New York to pursue her love of entertainment. She enrolled at the New York Film Academy and studied a diploma in producing for film and television. It was a life-changing experience. “It made this world that I had dreamt of for so many years so real, and allowed me to start figuring out the business of the arts which I was always very interested in.”

After New York she moved to Cape Town and worked at Penguin Films in various capacities. “I would do anything, from being an assistant director on set to developing concepts to directing documentaries to pitching to broadcasters. It was a challenging and amazing time and it gave me a really great foundation in the local TV and film world,” she says.

Her marketing experience gave her an understanding of audiences, which served her well for a move to M-Net’s Mzansi Magic in 2014 as a commissioning editor. She was promoted to head of Reality & Entertainment for local channels in 2015.

“In the future I want to tell more stories, in more ways, to more people. I want to share our great stories with the world,” she says.

Sibeko also wants to build the industry more directly by focusing on upskilling and transforming the sector to include more people able to create and run South Africa’s entertainment business. — Lesley Stones

Zamansele Nsele (32)

Zamansele Nsele (32)

Art History lecturer, University of Johannesburg

Art historian and lecturer Zamansele Nsele has been an avid reader and scholar since the day her mother enrolled her into pre-school at age four.

Now 32, she is an expert in the history of art and is beginning to lecture on the subject around the world. She can be found at the University of Johannesburg as a lecturer at the faculty of art, design and architecture. She has just completed her PhD dissertation in art history & visual culture, addressing post-apartheid nostalgia in contemporary art.

There are still very few black female scholars in African art history, so the contribution of this young black female scholar promises an exciting future for the field.

How apartheid influenced art or was represented in it is a subject close to her heart. “I was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1986, when legalised apartheid was taking its last breath,” she says. “I am proud to say I am a first-generation university graduate. For the five years that I have been lecturing I have successfully supervised 16 honours and master’s students, whilst balancing my own research and writing my doctoral dissertation.”

She now plans to convert her dissertation into a book. “This is an important step because there have been virtually no art books single-authored by black female art historians in South Africa,” she says. “I am planning to fill this gap as I believe it is important for students to be exposed to black women who are producers of knowledge in my field.”
Nsele has presented her work at Vanderbilt and Rutgers Universities in the USA, the University of East Anglia in the UK and the University of Ghana in Accra. She was also a guest speaker at the Museum Dialogues Conference hosted by the University of Namibia and the Goethe Institute.

She writes regularly about African art for The Journalist and has been published in Elle Decoration, the Journal of African and Asian Studies and various other magazines. “In my writing, I strive to connect art practice to current national questions. For instance, my latest article is on landscape art and the land question,” she says. She lists a career highlight as dining with Professor Hortense Spillers, an intellectual giant in black feminist thought. “As a young scholar I consider my myself privileged to have shared my research ideas with her.” —I

Thabisa Mjo (30)

Thabisa Mjo (30)

Founder and head designer, Mash.T Design Studio

Young designer Thabisa Mjo has a huge success on her hands as the creator of the 2018 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa.

The annual award presented by the Design Indaba was won by her enormous light fitting, a stunning 10kg creation that drips from the ceiling in a colourful cascade called Tutu 2.0.

“It’s big, and the size definitely adds to the wow factor. I love it because it is bold, beautiful and unapologetic.” This partly reflects her own personality. “I’m unapologetic about being who I am and doing the kind of work that I think will benefit people in my sphere of influence. That’s what I constantly aspire to be,” she says. Tutu 2.0 was influenced by the Xibelani skirts worn by Tsonga women, which remind her of a tutu. Her creation also won her the Nando’s Hot Young Designer title; she has supplied 50 of the light fittings to Nando’s outlets across the world, made by crafters at the Boitumelo Project in Hillbrow.

Her designs incorporate traditional African materials into cool but playful creations. “As much as I want to make pieces that have an African look and feel, I’m inspired by global trends,” she says. Her Pieces of Me light fittings use rich colours and bold prints that “feel like home”, with clean lines in a nod to global trends. “What makes the collection special is that sweet spot where my two worlds meet — a Western approach to design with an African spirit to anchor it.”

Her furniture collection A Place at the Table pays tribute to the resourcefulness, innovation and cultural influence of her grandmother. Like the Mojo Chair, which is perfect for small living spaces with its foldable backrest so it can be used as a stool or a side table. Presents from Joburg is a tableware collection inspired by the city skyline, with salt and pepper shakers shaped like Ponte and Sentech towers.

Her furniture and décor have won other awards including the 2017 Future Found Award by the Design Foundation, and she’s exhibited at 100% Design UK in London and the Maison&Objet exhibition in Paris.

“My focus in 2018 is to develop a line of super-affordable home furnishings. The pieces need to be multi-functional, durable and beautiful. Stuff that will make my customers’ home live, in a way that only clever design does.” —  Lesley Stones

Vus’umuzi Phakathi (32)

Vus’umuzi Phakathi (32)

Executive director, Current State Presentations

The idea of poetry being an actual career seems laughable in a country where the vast majority of performing artists are struggling to get by. And poetry is more of a niche market than most. Which means Vus’umuzi Phakathi has set himself a serious challenge in aiming to make poetry a paid profession.

“I aim to build a stable and sustainable poetry industry,” he says. “There are talented and skilled poets who sit behind call centre desks because there is no industry where they can live off their work. I look forward to the day a child can say, “I want to be a professional poet when I grow up,” and their parents won’t discourage them because it’s an actual industry to work in.”

To do that, poets must treat themselves as a brand, and understand that they are making the decision to start a business.

Phakathi has worked as a poet for 13 years and receives feedback from people telling him how much his work has affected them. Some say it saved them from suicide, saved their marriage or helped them find their own purpose. “I write and perform because it keeps me alive, and it has proven to give those that receive it life as well,” he says.
He has performed at numerous festivals and events, toured southern Africa and represented South Africa at the Individual World Poetry Slam in Washington. His discography includes The Abandoned Archive Of Romeo The Poet, The Testament Of The Poet and A Second With God. The Testament of The Poet won him the Best Poet prize at the 5th SABC Crown Gospel Awards.

Much of his focus is now on business. He co-founded Current State Presentations (CSP) to run free workshops in partnership with Joburg Theatre Youth Development, teaching novice poets from disadvantaged communities how to write, perform and run a business. Through CSP he has also facilitated workshops in high schools and in Botswana and Swaziland.

“For the past three years I have focused more on the business side of the arts than on performing, because of the need to build a stable and sustainable poetry industry where poets can make a comfortable living out of their art.”
Lesley Stones

Warren Masemola (35)

Warren Masemola (35)


Actor Warren Masemola (35) can scare the hell out of you with just a cold, hard stare.

His tough looks, muscular body and rich voice have seen him play the villain in numerous films and stage plays: the gunslinger in Five Fingers for Marseilles, an armed robber in the thrilling iNumber Number and a warlord in the play When Swallows Cry, which earned him a Best Actor nomination in the Naledi Theatre Awards.|

He can sing, dance and act in five different languages, and his talent will inevitably take him to Hollywood.
That Masemola looks tough just proves what a great actor he is, because underneath he’s a really nice guy who prefers inspiring roles, where he can encourage people to think differently about those we might simply stereotype.
“I don’t believe I’m only made to play a bad guy, and it’s too much of a comfort zone to know that people love you for one dimension when I know I can stretch myself further than they [can] imagine,” he says.

His favourite role so far is as MaFred in SABC 1’s drama, Tjovitjo, which won him a Best Actor award in the South African Film and Television Awards — his third Safta so far. MaFred is a pantsula dance group leader who encourages kids to use their passion for dance to get off the streets and create a better future for themselves. “MaFred is my favourite character because he advocates love, and if we love enough we can reach out to each other and touch lives in a positive way. I want to bring [about] change in the world, and with my talent being acting, people will get to know what I stand for, and it’s all love,” he says.

Masemola grew up in Soshanguve and was a great street dancer as a kid. He studied dance at Moving into Dance and drama at the Market Theatre Laboratory. He’s performed in children’s theatre, spent three years touring Europe with choreographer Robyn Orlin, and appeared in TV shows Ses’Top La, Saints and Sinners, Scandal!, Intersexions, Ayeye and Ring of Lies.

His place in the global spotlight is looking bright, with two of his films well received at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. One of them, The Number, will be our next chance to see him on the big screen. — Lesley Stones

Yusrah Bardien (31)

Yusrah Bardien (31)

Audience engagement strategist, Market Theatre Foundation

The dual focus of Yusrah Bardien’s job is to put more bums on theatre seats and use the arts to help shape a better society.

By ensuring young people are spellbound by the magic of the stage, Bardien can help make live shows a viable and thriving business. She believes young audiences will also benefit from having their horizons broadened by the arts.
As the audience engagement strategist at the Market Theatre Foundation, she is developing audience programmes that allow two-way engagement with patrons. In less than a year, she has organised two conferences with international partners and instigated a conversation programme called Let’s Talk Ideas, which values input from the audience as much as it does from experts. The programme has covered topics like the choice of shows for the theatre’s three stages.

She has set up her own consultancy, Creative Fix, to support arts companies and individuals in pursuit of a more effective industry, and has presented at national and international conferences on audience development and the arts in South Africa.

She is interested in how arts education and exposure to different forms of culture can be used to stimulate younger people. “One of the best by-products of the arts is teaching key practical and critical thinking skills through play, and people who participate in the arts have been able to apply the discipline and thinking patterns successfully in different fields of work,” she says. “Too many life-changing, brilliant, and beautiful creative products offer solutions to current and future problems in society, expressed in an accessible way — yet go unnoticed. Yet when politics goes into crisis, society turns to its poets, musicians or writers for guidance.”

“We have a responsibility to future generations to build a world where a creative approach is the norm, not the exception.”

Bardien was previously the marketing manager for ASSITEJ SA, an umbrella body for children’s theatre. She has worked on many theatre festivals and international arts exchange projects including France-South Africa Seasons and SA-UK Seasons.

She was also privileged to be involved in managing the artist programmes at Nelson Mandela’s state and Qunu funerals, and at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral. — Lesley Stones

vangile gantsho (34)

vangile gantsho (34)


Truthful and hard-hitting poet and cultural activist vangile gantsho has participated in poetry events and festivals around Africa and internationally. “I prefer to write my name lower case as part of my small-girl revolution,” she says.

She released her debut poetry collection undressing in front of the window in 2015, followed by red cotton this year. Her new collection was published by Impepho Press, which she co-founded as a pan-African publishing house to tell stories that celebrate both the fragility and resilience of the human experience.

“We believe in championing brave, particularly feminist, voices committed to literary excellence,” gantsho says. Her work has also been published in several literary publications, and she has produced shows such as Katz Cum out to Play, The State Theatre’s Night of the Poets, and Human4Human.

She identifies as a womxn, spelt with an x to break the patriarchy of being tied to men and to denote gender fluidity and inclusivity. “I believe black womxn are powerful and dangerous. And I think the world should be grateful that we are still so full of love. That against the odds, we are alive and loving … is a miracle,” she says.

As an activist, she began No Camp Chairs Poetry Picnics (NCCPP) on the lawns of Union Buildings, which lasted from 2011 until 2016. “We wanted to speak to our president. We invited him to come listen to us but he never came. NCCPP became the most popular and one of the longest-running poetry movements in Tshwane,” she says.

Ten years ago gantsho decided to pursue poetry full-time, initially supporting herself by waitressing and working in a call centre in between travelling the world to perform. Her audience so far has included four former African heads of state and a sultan. Now she makes a living by teaching poetry, performing, editing and running workshops.

“Poetry has been a lifeline for me, and opened me up to so many different opportunities. It is also how I was led towards finding the language to understand my calling.”

She believes her calling is to be a traditional healer, and moved to the Eastern Cape to focus on her spiritual training. “I started poetry healing workshops before I knew I was a healer. I wanted to focus of how poetry saves lives. On how we could use writing as a medium of healing.” — Lesley Stones

Nas Hoosen (30)

Nas Hoosen (30)

Writer, comic creator and illustrator

Pixar’s Up is Nas Hoosen’s favourite animation. The film explores the anxiety of getting old, regret, and the realisation that life does not always go as we planned it.

“The first 10 minutes of the movie make you cry. I know animated movies generally get written off, but there is just so much to them.”

It is therefore no surprise that according to him, the main ingredient to any good story is the feelings it elicits, more than the ideas it seeks to communicate. “Stories remind us that feelings and a sense of vulnerability matter.”

Hoosen was a finalist in a Disney/Triggerfish Story Lab screenwriting program, which gave him the rare opportunity to be behind the scenes at Disney and Pixar Animation in Los Angeles, where he was given an opportunity to further hone his craft with the biggest and most influential names in the international film industry.

Hoosen has been writing since he was very young. When he was reading comics as a child he had no idea this could be something he could do professionally.

To date, his illustrations have been published in Phumlani Pikoli’s collection of short stories The Fatuous State of Severity, and he has given talks on comics and visual storytelling at various art spaces in South Africa. He is in residency as a comics artist at the Arteles Centre in Finland. — Nomonde Ndwalaza

Keamogetswe (Kea) Moeketsane (33)

Keamogetswe (Kea) Moeketsane (33)

Producer, South African State Theatre

If people can’t afford to go to the theatre, you must take the theatre to them.

That’s the idea that drove Keamogetswe Moeketsane to run a community theatre initiative that was so successful she was invited to England to help launch a similar programme there.

At the moment, though, her job is to produce shows that will grow audiences for the South African State Theatre, Africa’s biggest theatre. Moeketsane was recently appointed as the theatre’s first ever female producer, responsible for the financial and managerial functions of the productions and the venue, and for hiring writers, directors, designers, composers, choreographer and sometimes the performers too.

Her triumph in taking theatre to the people came in 2015 when she produced the Home Theatre Festival for the State Theatre. “My biggest dream is to tell authentic African stories, and nothing brings me greater joy than creating access to the arts to previously disadvantaged communities,” she says. “We visited 30 homes in 30 townships and suburbs in Tshwane, with 30 actors and 30 filmmakers. The initiative was so successful that I was invited to the Theatre Royal East in Stratford to work as part of their Home Theatre team.”

Moeketsane studied film at Tshwane University of Technology and her first professional acting role was in Romeo & Juliet in 2008. She’s appeared in several TV shows and has written and performed in industrial theatre campaigns for a variety of companies.

Her directing debut was Sorry Wrong Number for the National Arts Festival, and she co-wrote and directed Forgiveness in 2014, a play adapted from a Greek tragedy.

She also runs her own non-profit company, CUT Solutions, to use theatre as a tool for empowerment. She takes educational plays to schools to spark discussions and hopefully find solutions to issues such as HIV, teenage pregnancy and sugar daddies (“blessers”). CUT Solutions has produced shows for clients including the City of Tshwane and the South African Responsible Gambling Board.

In 2017 she and some partners opened Tshwane Playhouse, an arts centre in Mamelodi to host music, dance, theatre and spoken word performances. “It attracted a lot of young people and kept children off the streets, but due to lack of funds it was unsustainable. But I believe with a concerted effort we will succeed, and I still conduct drama workshops in Mamelodi.” — Lesley Stones

Jade Bowers (30)

Jade Bowers (30)

Theatre director, producer and designer, UJ and Jade Bowers Design & Management

Helping people to tell their stories and letting them discover hidden talents is what drives Jade Bowers to produce great stage shows.

As the production manager for UJ Arts & Culture at the University of Johannesburg she has helped the students to create some memorable shows, though there is no formal drama department.

“I’m hoping to do a musical with UJ students next year with a cast of about 50, a choir and a band. All the students we work with are accounting, science and business students who are doing this in their spare time, and they just want it so much. There’s a passion that you can’t deny,” she says.

Her talent earned her the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre award, and she was named one of South Africa’s Young Achievers by The Presidency as part of the 2016 Youth Day Celebrations. Other accolades include the 2014 Arts and Culture Trust ImpACT Award for Theatre, a Naledi Award for Best Director, and two Standard Bank Ovation Awards.

In addition to working at UJ she runs her own production company, Jade Bowers Design & Management, which directs, designs and production manages for the stage.

Her current show is Jungfrau, adapted from a short story by Mary Watson. Bowers was commissioned to create the show for the TheaterFormen Festival in Germany, where it made its debut in June. She then brought it to this year’s National Arts Festival as part of the main programme and to the Con Cowan Theatre in Johannesburg.

“The story is about a family in Cape Town with family secrets and the morality of what is seen in public and what is seen in private,” Bowers says. “The kind of work I do is really about sharing stories about coloured people’s identities in South Africa at this time. I love working with people who have never seen their stories on stage or never had the opportunity to perform in this type of story.”

Her firm foundation in stagecraft was formed at the University of Cape Town, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Drama and Sociology, and at Wits University, where she gained an honours degree focusing on directing and design for the stage. — Lesley Stones

Angel Campey (35)

Angel Campey (35)

Stand-up comedian and comedy writer

Comedy is the purest platform for freedom of speech, with comedians given loads of leeway to speak their minds, says Angel Campey.

She’s a stand-up comedian, presents a comedy-centric radio show on Smile 90.4FM each Sunday, and is one of the writers for the award-winning TV comedy ZANews Puppet Nation. She’s played in New York and Montreal, and performed the two comedy shows Yes, Really Angel and Devil’s Advocate at the National Arts Festival. A career highlight was being chosen by Nigerian comedian Basketmouth to perform in his show Lords of The Ribs to 4 000 people in Lagos in October 2017.

She first ventured onto stage in 2011 and reached the finals of the Joe Parker Comedy Showdown competition, then went on to become a regular on Comedy Central’s Kings and Queens of Comedy.

Campey likes to joke about the complicated political dynamics of white privilege from the perspective of a woman who grew up during the pivotal changes in South Africa. “I find the material that really lands and resonates is when I start talking about my politics and my opinion on my race — and my family stories. It’s very vulnerable comedy because it’s pure and honest, and if the crowd rejects it, they aren’t rejecting my opinions on something easy like airplane food, they’re rejecting my core opinions.

“But it’s also a platform that can influence social change, and I address things like our privilege and the legacy of apartheid, and perhaps start a conversation in people’s minds about things they hadn’t thought of a certain way before,” she says.

“Comedy is one of the last pure bastions of freedom of speech, and I get away with saying things that many other creatives would be hung out to dry for. So it’s my responsibility as a South African to push that limit.”

The result, she hopes, will be a meeting of minds around shared laughter. “I hope to keep using my personal observations and life stories to facilitate difficult conversations from the safety of laughter and joy,” she says.
“It’s a truly humbling and joyful thing to be able to reach so many people, cross culturally and internationally with laughter. Being a comedian has shown me how similar we all are, no matter where we are from.” — Lesley Stones