Role of a for­got­ten woman

SA’s Terry Pheto felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity to tell the story of the largely for­got­ten Eve­lyn Mase

Weekend Witness - - Arts - ESTELLE SINKINS

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.

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