KwaMashu is a township just over 30km north of Durban. It was once a sugar cane plantation, but evolved and reinvented itself as an arts hub that nurtures young talent. Uzalo actress Nompilo Maphumulo (35) chats to us about growing up there and chasing her acting career.
By: Fundiswa Nkwanyana
Pictures: Khaya Ngwenya
1. Fond memories
Nompilo reminisces about spending time playing hopscotch and the three tin game with her friends, which lasted long after the street lights went on. She also remembers watching kids walk past her house from the public library or rush off to attend art classes hosted by community members. Sadly, due to the high crime rate prevailing in the area now, many children don’t feel safe playing on the streets. This has led to recreational centres popping up in various parts of the neighbourhood. Both children and adults are seen using the recreational parks for exercising and playtime.
2. KwaMashu Community Advancement Projects
From a young age, Nompilo had aspirations to pursue a career in the performing arts, but her family wanted her to focus on school. However, she frequented KwaMashu Community Advancement Projects (KCAP) – a local arts centre that enhances the quality of life of the youth by teaching them to use their natural talents to create their own employment opportunities. Young people in KwaMashu have free access to the centre that. She would then ask them what they learnt in the drama classes. Seeing former KCAP drama students excelling in the entertainment industry, made her regret not taking those drama classes.
3. Making ends meet
After matric, Nompilo couldn’t further her studies due to financial constraints. Instead, she had to find a job to help provide for her family. “People in KwaMashu get up and go to work, sitting at home doing nothing is disapproved and I knew that I had to find a job immediately,” she says. She therefore moved to Durban to work as a waitress at the International Convention Centre. Later she also worked at a call centre as a telesales agent. During this time, her desire to join the world of acting grew stronger.
4. Walking through the doors of KCAP
After years of ignoring her dream, she quit her job and returned to KwaMashu “I went back to the KCAP to learn about the performing arts and increase my knowledge on acting.” She excelled in her drama and theatre classes. “I was first introduced to acting as a little girl in my township and when I was older I went back to hone my acting skills.” Her determination and love for acting, made her excel in her studies. “I was finally doing what I loved and it was very exciting to be back in my township,” she says. Nompilo believes that she would not be who she is today had her community not supported her.