Local arts industry mourns Cont Mhlanga

02 Aug, 2022 - 13:08 0 Views
Local arts industry mourns Cont Mhlanga Cont Mhlanga


Langalakhe Mabena

Following the death of celebrated arts guru Cont Mdladla Mhlanga, the local arts industry plunged into mourning as creatives, those who worked closely with him and those who admired his works from a distance, bid farewell to the doyen.

Mhlanga who founded Amakhosi Theatre Production in 1981, a school which gave birth to many talents in Bulawayo and the rest of Zimbabwe, died on 1 August due to pneumonia.

The arts guru was admitted into a health facility in Bulawayo for 10 days, with his family reporting that he was responding well to the treatment. However, things took a twist in the last three days before his death.

Cont Mhlanga’s longtime friend from Netherlands Tanja Lubbers who is the Director of Hivos Latin America, said Mhlanga was a rare breed in the arts sector who will be remembered by many.

“Our friend Cont Mhlanga has passed on to the spiritual world. He is one of the few creatives whom we bestowed with the Dutch Prince Claus Fund award. He brought back Hagel lag for us.

“He will be dearly missed in the Zimbabwean arts scene and the audience as a whole, as a playwright, producer, director and so much more.

“He educated generations in the arts, spiritually and gave them good leadership. Wishing all who love him strength and love,” said Lubbers.

Award winning female rapper Awa Khiwe said Cont Mhlanga’s life has to be celebrated because he gave many talents a home at Amakhosi.

“Rest in Peace Legend. Uyibekile induku ebandla (you played your part very well). You gave our talents a home, gave us our first stages and told us we can make it.

“You showed us that it was possible to make it in life despite being an African child and you pushed us to do our best. Thank you for dedicating your life to making our futures bright. May your soul rest in eternal peace Mr Cont Mhlanga,” said Awa Khiwe.

Arts practitioner Raisedon Baya said Mhlanga was a hero, matched with a giant baobab tree.

“Now it has finally sunk in that he has indeed gone. The big baobab tree has fallen and, in its space, there will be emptiness for years. It will be a space too difficult to fill and many will always remember it as the space where the big baobab tree stood and protected us from the wind and hot sun.

“Malume, Mdala or Khulu as he preferred to be called, was no ordinary artiste. He was multi-talented. Many will always remember him for his creative work – the plays with Amakhosi and the television work with ZBCtv.

“But he was more than that. He was a leader, a visionary, a dreamer and a pioneer. He is one of the people who changed the arts landscape, not just in Bulawayo but nationally.

“Cont Mhlanga was a hero. He needs to be remembered as nothing but that,” said Baya.

Script writer and director Jeffrey Sibanda said he was a living testimony of the great deeds by Mhlanga of giving young creatives a chance.

“I never thought I will be saying rest in peace to the only person who could really tell my art story better so soon.

“In 2005, I went to Amakhosi carrying my English composition to seek help in script writing and there I did not only find a teacher, but a father, a mentor, a master, a boss. Cont taught me everything, life skills, gave me my first job and took me to different countries.

“As much as I feel like my arts journey has somehow lost sense, I will forever be proud of Khulu Mhlanga and the opportunity he gave me when no one else believed in me.

“I am everything I am today because God brought him into my life. He moulded my passion for arts and now I am a living testimony of the great deeds that he did from the good will of his heart,” said Sibanda.

Continueloving Mdladla Mhlanga was born on March 16, 1958 at Fatima Mission in Lupane to Dickson Mbikwa and Sarah Danile.

He learnt at Shabula and Fatima primary schools.

Cont did Forms One and Two at Fatima High School, then Form Three to Form Four at Sobukhazi High School in Bulawayo.

The doyen established Amakhosi Theatre in 1981 where a number of artistes who passed through his hands became household names in Zimbabwe.

It started as a youth karate club called Dragons in 1979 and in two years later, it turned into Amakhosi Theatre.

Cont starred as Mtutureli Niekwu in an anti-apartheid movie A World Apart which was released in 1988.

In 1995, Amakhosi established the country’s first privately-owned cultural centre located within the boundaries of the townships, now popularly known as the Township Square Cultural Centre.

The legend wrote more than 20 plays, some of them are The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs, The Members and Vikela. He has three books to his name.

He also adapted the popular play Stitsha into a TV series and it featured the late Beatar Mangethe, one of the finer talents he groomed.

He directed Bamqgibela Ephila and Omunye Umngcwabo.

He was the brain behind the much-loved ZBCtv series Makorokoza.

He was the founding vice- chairperson of Fairtalk Communications, the parent company of Skyz Metro, Breeze FM and KeYona TV.

Upon retiring from the arts in 2016, he relocated from Bulawayo to his rural home in Lupane, where he was rearing livestock such as goats.

Cont leaves behind a wife, six children and a grandchild.

In the day of his death (1 August), Amakhosi Township Square was closed in respect of its founder, while mourners are gathered at the family home at 488 Nguboyenja suburb.

Cont’s brother, Styx Mhlanga said funeral arrangements had not been finalised, but he will be buried in his rural home of Lupane.

“People will be gathered at the family home here in Nguboyenja (house number 488 next to Happy Valley on Luveve Road), while we prepare the funeral arrangements.

“But what is clear is that there will be a memorial service at Amakhosi Theatre before he is buried at his rural home in Lupane,” said Mr Mhlanga.

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