DRUNKARD OR GE­NIUS? . . . In search of the real Mackay ‘Sakhamuzi’ Tick­eys

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

FIND­ING the grave of leg­endary ac­tor Mackay “Sakhamuzi” Tick­eys is not an easy task.

Most of the peo­ple who he be­friended or shared the stage with have sim­ply no idea where those who sur­vive him re­side.

Ac­cord­ing to For­tune Ruzun­gude, the man who starred op­po­site Tick­eys as Folo­mani in Sin­jalo, Tickey’s fam­ily has re­lo­cated to South Africa. Although he used to live a stone’s throw away from his fel­low cast mem­ber, Ruzun­gude is not en­tirely sure of what be­came of Tick­eys’ fam­ily.

In­stead, he passes on an­other con­tact to this re­porter and from that num­ber the trail grew cold again.

Vet­eran ac­tor and di­rec­tor Mem­ory Kum­b­ota re­mem­bers that when he passed away, Tick­eys had a wife and a young daugh­ter. He is also at a loss about the fam­ily’s cur­rent where­abouts.

The search for the real Sakhamuzi is not an easy one. In his prime, Tick­eys was one of Zim­babwe’s most re­spected ac­tors, a master of his craft who lived and breathed for the roles that he took on whether on stage or on TV.

So ded­i­cated was he to his craft that re­tired arts prac­ti­tioner Cont Mh­langa re­mem­bers how Tick­eys would be­come con­sumed by a role he was cast in.

“He was so ded­i­cated to his craft. If the script said that he should play a beg­gar then he would go to the rail­way sta­tion and live as a beg­gar for five weeks just so that he could play the role of one. Af­ter those five weeks he would come back and say now I’m ready to play this role,” Mh­langa said.

De­spite glow­ing praise from Mh­langa and oth­ers in the arts, Tick­eys’ legacy is not ex­actly clear cut. His death in 2006 al­most led to an up­ris­ing at Amakhosi, af­ter an obit­u­ary claimed that the ac­tor had led an ir­re­spon­si­ble life that had led to his early death.

“Tick­eys cel­e­brated his per­form­ing suc­cess by beer drink­ing, women and died a pale shadow of the township hero that he was, poor and pen­ni­less with noth­ing to show for his achieve­ments . . . At the end of the day peo­ple blame us as pro­duc­ers when they see an ac­tor dy­ing with­out any­thing. They tend to be­lieve we swin­dle ac­tors out of their earn­ings,” the state­ment which was later with­drawn, said.

A fe­ro­cious fight had fol­lowed that state­ment, with Mh­langa in the end get­ting a court or­der to bar some per­form­ers that had be­come hos­tile to him es­pe­cially in the af­ter­math of that damn­ing obit­u­ary.

While he seemed to have gone the way of many artistes be­fore and af­ter him, there were those that were pre­pared to fight so that his im­age was not tar­nished as he headed for the grave.

So ex­actly who was Mackay Tick­eys? Was he a down and out drunkard that passed with­out a penny to his name on 16 June 2006 or was he a man of the peo­ple, peo­ple who were even pre­pared to fight tooth and nail and risk their own liveli­hood so that his name would not live in in­famy posthu­mously?

“If you got to know him well he was a dif­fer­ent per­son off the stage. Funny and fun lov­ing yes, but he had his softer side, his fears, his am­bi­tions, his love for his daugh­ter uS’phongo and his neph­ews. He was a strong fa­ther fig­ure. Just like the best of us he would mess up from time to time uBhu­das. We all called him Bhu­das by the way. Even to­day I still call him that. Some­times we messed up to­gether but it was all in good na­tured fun,” said Kum­b­ota.

Ac­cord­ing to the vet­eran arts prac­ti­tioner, it was on stage that Tick­eys was most at home. It made him a sought af­ter ac­tor who even A-list stars wanted to star op­po­site to.

“I found him to be very, very tal­ented. It was like ev­ery­thing came easy to him and he would not strug­gle to get into char­ac­ter like most of us do. He just flowed. I be­lieve Mackay did not ‘act’, he be­came. He would not act a char­ac­ter but be­came the char­ac­ter. That is why I guess peo­ple thought that his stage and screen per­sona was what he lived. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

“All along in our re­la­tion­ship I wanted to act with him but I re­mem­ber Cont would say that we’re too sim­i­lar. Mean­while, I di­rected him again in Mopani Junc­tion — the ra­dio drama se­ries. But then that chance came in Lewis Ndlovu’s Din­gane and the Rooftop pro­duc­tion of Wole Soyinka’s From Zia with Love, di­rected by Cont Mh­langa and Dawn Parkinson,” he said.

On the set of Sin­jalo, a risky, yet ground­break­ing pro­duc­tion that tack­led the pol­i­tics of tribe and friend­ship in modern day Zim­babwe, Tick­eys had kept the spir­its up with his home.

“He made sure that we were more like a fam­ily on the set. He was some­one who just en­joyed crack­ing jokes and Mackay would no­tice that the mood was down and start crack­ing jokes. If you didn’t laugh then he would start laugh­ing at the jokes him­self then you would find your­self join­ing in even against your will,” said Ruzun­gude.

How­ever, some­times this hu­mour would give away to anger, some­thing that at times mir­rored some of the rag­ing men he por­trayed on screen.

“He had a great sense of hu­mour but could also get an­gry pretty eas­ily. He hated to be un­der­rated or looked down upon,” said Kum­b­ota.

The difficulty one has in find­ing those that sur­vive Tick­eys is just an il­lus­tra­tion of how dif­fi­cult it is to find out who some of the de­parted peo­ple that gave Zim­bab­weans smiles over the years, truly were. Once the cur­tain came down on his life, it was as if Tick­eys’ ex­is­tence had been wiped out. The man whose karate skills were leg­endary on the rough streets of Makokoba had never ex­isted.

“The legacy that he left was on stage and noth­ing off it. This is gen­er­ally a weak­ness among artistes of the older gen­er­a­tion. Their legacy is only tied to what they did on stage and it was the case with him as well. When you talk about all their life, all you can talk about is what they did on stage and noth­ing off it. There’s noth­ing tan­gi­ble that they left be­hind. So all our me­mories of him are tied to what he did on stage and that’s it,” said Raise­don Baya.

For Kum­b­ota, the last­ing me­mories he will al­ways have of Tick­eys are also tied to the late ac­tor’s last days on earth. Ly­ing there on his deathbed, Tick­eys would spend his days prac­tis­ing, prepar­ing for a last per­for­mance that never was.

“The one I would never for­get is the Workshop Neg­a­tive we did in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia. Workshop is like “the clas­sic” and for me that was a defin­ing mo­ment. Bhu­das held my hand through and through and helped me in ev­ery way to suc­cess­fully fit in highly tal­ented cast of him, Chris Hurst and Dr Chris Jones I think. It was in Cal­i­for­nia that he first fell ill and was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal.

“I used to visit him ev­ery day and he would take me through my lines and the nurses would come in and ask, ‘are you re­hears­ing’ and we would say, ‘no, we are chat­ting.’ It hap­pened un­til they jok­ingly threat­ened to ban me from vis­it­ing. Well, he re­cov­ered only to re­lapse and suc­cumb to the ill­ness while we were back home. I guess that Workshop Neg­a­tive in Cal­i­for­nia was his last stage per­for­mance,” he said.

The late Mackay “Sakhamuzi” Tick­eys

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