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Sunday World - - Special Project - Amam­bazo: The Mu­si­cal Amam­bazo, Nyakanyaka, Deliwe Ikati Elim­nyama. Kids, Unilever’ There is an An­swer, The Turn­ing We Are Alive Uzoba um­ab­ha­lane kwa ! " ! # $ % & '

IS fa­ther used to tell him that he’d one day grow up to be­come a clerk at multi­na­tional con­sumer goods com­pany Unilever, but Ed­mund Mh­longo had big­ger dreams.

The lit­tle herd­boy from ru­ral Nk­wenkwe, Mel­moth, in KwaZulu-Natal is now a Mas­ter’s grad­u­ate from Sus­sex Univer­sity and has writ­ten and di­rected ac­claimed mu­si­cals that have toured Europe and Africa.

He is also a pro­ducer grad­u­ate from the Hol­ly­wood Film In­sti­tute.

Di­rect­ing is by far the proud­est mo­ment of his ca­reer, he says.

This for me is like win­ning a Tony Award. Work­ing with Pro­fes­sor Joseph Sha­bal­ala and hum­ble Baba Maz­ibuko has been awe­some. I learnt a lot and I feel priv­i­leged to have been asked to script and di­rect the story of the four­time Grammy-win­ning Lady­smith Black Mambazo.”

Di­rect­ing which opens at the Play­house in Dur­ban on Thurs­day, con­trib­uted to his growth spir­i­tu­ally, he says. I can’t wait to see this story turned into a film.”

His jour­ney started from hum­ble be­gin­nings.

I grew up a ru­ral boy, herd­ing goats, then cat­tle. I was walk­ing 10km ev­ery day to St Paul’s Mis­sion School do­ing my pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion where Stan­dard 5 (Grade 7) was the high­est stan­dard,” he says.

I learnt my singing craft herd­ing cat­tle and do­ing stick-fight­ing. I was a leader at a young age even formed my own isi­cathamiya group, copy­ing from what my fa­ther was do­ing. Ev­ery Easter and De­cem­ber holidays my fa­ther used to or­gan­ise isi­cathamiya com­pe­ti­tions and that’s where the mu­sic in­flu­ence grew in me,” says Mh­longo.

His sec­ondary school­ing was spent in KwaMashu, where he lived for 24 years. To­day he is still based in KwaMashu, work­ing from the Ekhaya Multi Arts Cen­tre that he built in 2003.

I was always bright at school. We also used to do wood­work, which taught me how to carve tra­di­tional items and made me love my roots. I always got best marks for this, which in­cluded work­ing with clay,” Mh­longo rem­i­nisces.

He also played soc­cer at school and says he was very good at it.

At sec­ondary school I was always No 1 in class with his­tory as my best sub­ject. All Zulu nov­els were read by me in the class­room be­cause of my drama­ti­sa­tion skills when read­ing them,” he says.

Mh­longo says he loved the­atre and film, but never dreamt he would make the per­form­ing arts a ca­reer.

At high school I was a (protest) poet. I was also in the choir be­cause all

'young boys were forced to sing tenor.”

He was a big fan of western and kung fu movies and the KwaMashu Cinema and the Dream­land in Al­bert Street, Dur­ban, be­came his sec­ond home.

I was in­spired by films mainly those by Si­mon Mab­hunu Sa­bela such as and

In the early 1980s I watched ev­ery Gib­son Kente play that came to KwaMashu’s YMCA. That in­spired my the­atri­cal love, I be­lieve, says Mh­longo.

His first break came while he was study­ing at the Univer­sity of Dur­banWestville. I was a poet and a cul­tural ac­tivist. I was on stu­dent com­mit­tees that or­gan­ised an­nual cul­tural fes­ti­vals. Peo­ple like Mzwakhe Mbuli and Vusi Mahlasela used to come and do work­shops with us on po­etry. I wrote my first play, while a stu­dent at univer­sity, which was fol­lowed by in 1990.”

His first ma­jor the­atri­cal break was when his first mu­si­cal,

about Dur­ban street chil­dren, was in­vited to tour the UK and Den­mark in 1996.

I ap­plied for a schol­ar­ship with the UN and World Univer­sity Ser­vices in 1991.

I was ac­cepted at the Univer­sity of Sus­sex, Eng­land, where I did my Mas­ter’s in devel­op­ment economic stud­ies from 1991 to 1993.”

While do­ing his Mas­ter’s, he also at­tended week­end classes on film writ­ing and di­rect­ing and the­atre di­rect­ing.

Study­ing abroad opened my eyes and mo­ti­vated me to ini­ti­ate pro­jects that would ben­e­fit my com­mu­nity. Over­seas, arts is busi­ness and I wanted to com­bine my busi­ness skills to ad­vance art at com­mu­nity level,” Mh­longo says.

He is happy he chose the arts over a reg­u­lar job”.

My par­ents wanted me to be ei­ther a lawyer or a clerk, which I did not un­der­stand. My fa­ther always said:

(You ll be a clerk at Unilever) where he worked for 35 years.

I am a cre­ative be­ing, cre­ated by the Cre­ator to man­i­fest His cre­ative­ness in the world,” says Mh­longo.

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