Role of a forgotten woman
SA’s Terry Pheto felt a responsibility to tell the story of the largely forgotten Evelyn Mase
Mandela: Long Walk to TERRY Pheto has created a moving portrait of Evelyn Mase, the first wife of former president Nelson Mandela, in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which opened nationwide yesterday.
The actress, who rose to fame in Gavin Hood’s Oscarwinning film Tsotsi, said she felt a responsibility to tell the story of a woman whose role in Mandela’s life has almost been forgotten.
“I did some research, but unfortunately there is not enough material when it comes to Evelyn. She is still very much a forgotten woman, which is part of the reason that I was attracted to this character,” Pheto said.
“I felt personally that she deserved a second chance. She was an important part of his life ... they had 14 years and four children together. They had a marriage that, in actual fact, was longer than the marriage he had with Winnie before he went to prison.
“I think you get to know the man through Evelyn, whereas with Winnie you see the leader. Yes, he is a very loving husband and you see his passion for his family, but [with Winnie] the politics was at the forefront.”
Mase, a Xhosa from the
Skoonheid, Sleeper’s Wake), plays National Party minister of justice, Kobie Coetzee, in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Transkei, was orphaned at an early age and placed in the care of her brother, the political activist Sam Mase.
She met Mandela through family friends, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, when she moved to Soweto. The couple married at the Native Commissioner’s Court in 1944 and had four children.
But their relationship came under strain as Mandela became increasingly involved in the African National Congress, organising the defiance campaign and Congress of the People.
Mase and Mandela divorced in 1958, and he went on to marry Winnie Mandela later that year.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. PHOTO: SUPPLIED that, for him, the key to playing any character is to find the good in a person.
“Kobie was a good man,” the actor said. “He was a lawyer himself [and] he came from the Free State so he was very Calvinistic in his up IRISH band U2 provides a song, Ordinary Love, for the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/photo. php?v=10151868885428863&set=vb.5678046685& type=2&theater
Asked how she had prepared for the role, Pheto said that she spoke extensively with a researcher involved in the film who had met Mase several times before she died in 2004.
The actress also spoke to Mandela’s eldest son, Thembi’s, daughter Ndileka, who shared her memories of her grandmother.
“I took all the information that I had and tried to find the essence of this woman and [I] tried to be honest, but sensitive as well,” she added.
Watching her on the big screen, it’s clear that she has succeeded in showing a warm, Godfearing woman, who simply wanted to protect her family.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is the latest project for Johannesburgbased Pheto, who has also starred in the films How to Steal 2 Million, Catch a Fire, Sekalli le Meokgo, Goodbye Bafana and Mafrika.
On the small screen, the actress has appeared in Justice for All, Zone 14, Jacob’s Cross and Hopeville.
And, in 2011, after leaving South Africa to try her luck in Hollywood, she landed a recurring role of a heart surgeon, Dr Malaika Maponya, on the American soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.