5 minutes with actress Mathabo Mothibe

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Mathabo Mothibe

Actress Mathabo Mothibe made her acting debut on South Africa’s first Xitsonga drama series, Giyani Land of Blood. She chats to us about how she got the role and her career. By Kwanele Mathebula

I realised my love for acting in high school. I was born in Alexandra township, North of Johannesburg. When I was two years old, my family moved to Leondale, East of Johannesburg. Because I was tall, I began playing netball in primary and high school. I then became interested in drama after I heard a friend talk about it. So, when I found out that I could take it as a subject in grade 10, I jumped at the chance. But, I worked behind the scenes, and started acting the following year until matric. Drama started taking up all my extra time which meant that I had to give up netball. I knew then that I wanted to do it professionally.

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I completed my B.Tech Drama degree in 2016. In 2011, while in matric, I applied to study drama at Tshwane University of Technology. I didn’t have enough points to study drama, so I opted for what I thought was the closest thing, Performance Theatre. I soon found out that they were two completely different things, theatre performance being backstage lighting, make-up and working on sets. After talking to the drama department, I was able to audition and earn a spot in the programme. I spent the next four years studying; I trained mainly in theatre where I learnt voice work, styles of performing and how to be a great performer. I completed my degree in 2015, and seeing my peers and other graduates struggle to break into the industry scared me. So, I did my Honours the following year.

Getting my foot in the industry was tougher than I thought. I have changed agencies numerous times since 2015 because they weren’t working for me. Not getting work was tough especially because we were experiencing financial problems at home. At one point, I got an office job that I couldn’t bring myself to take because I knew it wasn’t my passion. In 2016, I kept busy by working as a producer at my husband Vuyani’s production company, Arts Sake Productions. Here, I produced two feature films. In 2017, I finally found an acting agency that I was happy with through a friend. Though I wasn’t booking work, I was excited to be attending auditions frequently. In April 2018, my agent told me about an audition for a Xistonga drama series, Giyani Land of Blood. Two weeks later, I went to the audition and gave it my all. In May, I received the news that I got the role of Khensani Mudau, daughter of businessman Richard Mudau. I cried because I was happy that my career was finally picking up.

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The response to Giyani Land of Blood has been bittersweet. I am happy to be part of the first Xitsonga drama on local television. But, there has also been a negative sentiment about me being cast as a lead female on the series when I have a SeSotho name. What people don’t know is that my mother is Tsonga and my father was Sotho, so we spoke both languages at home. I hope that this is something they’ll be able to move past because South Africa is a melting pot of beautiful cultures.