Cont names fa­mous cen­tre’s top five

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

EV­ERY con­ver­sa­tion about the arts in Bu­l­awayo has to be­gin with a men­tion of Amakhosi Cul­tural Cen­tre.

Lo­cated at Basch Street ex­ten­sion and Old Falls Road, the cen­tre has proved to be a unique nurs­ery to some of the city’s best tal­ents in the arts. From rib crack­ing co­me­di­ans to ex­pres­sive ac­tors and ex­pert song com­posers, the cen­tre has nur­tured them ALL.

The names that have walked the halls and stomped the stages of the cen­tre read like a who’s who list of the best on the coun­try arts scene.

How­ever, nar­row­ing down the best five to have come from Amakhosi would be a task that no critic would ever think of tak­ing on. Quite sim­ply, the names that have come from Amakhosi are sim­ply too heavy to carry. Sun­day Life caught up with the founder of the cen­tre, Cont Mh­langa, who re­lieved us of the bur­den and gave his top five list of those that he had the plea­sure of work­ing with at Amakhosi.

This is some­one who I first met when he was no more than a boy just wear­ing box­ers. I have been priv­i­leged to wit­ness his growth from that time to now. This was some­one I first saw recit­ing po­ems at school.

With time he be­came what I like to call my school of knowl­edge. Sih­langu was that per­son who you could give knowl­edge to and he would im­ple­ment that knowl­edge like no one else would.

When you talk of Cont Mh­langa you’re talk­ing about the pi­o­neers of the arts in Bu­l­awayo. You’re talk­ing about the peo­ple who came when there was no road and laid a brand new one. Peo­ple did not un­der­stand what an artiste was be­fore we started defin­ing it. So some­one like me needed to be work­ing with be­liev­ers, strong apos­tles that be­lieved in the vi­sion that we had. That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween Dlodlo and ev­ery­one else. He came when Cont Mh­langa didn’t ex­ist. There are some young peo­ple who haven’t known a Zim­babwe and Bu­l­awayo with­out Amakhosi. Dlodlo bought into the idea in its early days, the karate days. He was very spe­cific about what he wanted. He wanted to get the name of the cen­tre out there. He wanted Amakhosi known by the city and the coun­try. So he broke new ground be­cause he pi­o­neered mar­ket­ing as a dis­ci­pline in the arts.

Even af­ter he left to do other things he kept on plant­ing the Amakhosi flag ev­ery­where he went. For him it was not about money but mak­ing a city rise. Un­like other artistes he was not sin­gle fo­cused. Some just stick to act­ing or singing or danc­ing through their whole ca­reer. He saw that there were many fields in the cre­ative in­dus­tries and went into most of them.

This was a guy who wanted to stand on one leg through­out his life. He be­lieved that he was an ac­tor through and through.

He was some­one that mo­bilised peo­ple, which is some­thing that I be­lieve that the sec­tor is lack­ing cur­rently. We could land in any part of the world and he would ask, “Cont, who do you want us to see?” It didn’t mat­ter if it was a big star, the mayor or the big­gest busi­ness­man in that city but he would just some­how get into their of­fice and get you what you wanted.

I re­mem­ber when we did the Workshop Neg­a­tives tour around the coun­try and we did not spend a cent. You’d just work up the next morn­ing and find that Mackay had some­how man­aged to get the mayor of that city to cover your ho­tel bill.

He didn’t just want to act op­po­site ev­ery­one. He was choosy about who starred op­po­site him. He would pass over a role if he felt that he wasn’t com­pat­i­ble with the per­son that he was play­ing op­po­site to. Or he could tell me that I won’t work with this di­rec­tor be­cause he’s just too young for me in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence in the trade.

He also hated tele­vi­sion. He felt a lot of peo­ple in tele­vi­sion were junk qual­ity pro­duc­ers. That’s one thing about him — he hated pre­tenders in the arts and he would tell you to your face if he felt that you were. He was just an amaz­ing pro­fes­sional.

This is some­one who is not Amakhosi per se. He was just some­one who de­cided that he was go­ing to work with Amakhosi even though he was not from here. He came to me and said your job as Cont is to iden­tify the best tal­ent from Bu­l­awayo, groom it and my job is to take it to the rest of the world.

That’s how we man­aged to get Amakhosi’s work known in Zim­babwe and even be­yond. Guzha re­mains the only su­per­star di­rec­tor in Zim­babwe I be­lieve. He is just a su­perb guy to work with and a lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise that he is also a su­perb ac­tor.

Beater was just amaz­ing. She was some­one who I would call a top shelf taker of instructions. She would take instructions and she was brave enough to follow them through.

Those that have worked closely with me will tell you that I’m not a pleas­ant per­son to work with. I can be bru­tally hon­est and I was that way with Beater. I told her that she can’t sing on her own be­cause of her vo­cal range and she needed a band. Some might have been of­fended. I re­mem­bered her ask­ing me how she was go­ing to man­age a band be­cause she was so small and men would find it hard to lis­ten to her.

I told her that she needed to find a way to make it work and the next thing you know she had a band. It’s nice to see a young lady with no con­fi­dence yet is brave enough to go on and do what needs to be done be­cause she’s brave. The big­gest dis­as­ter in the world of show­biz is that many young women have no con­fi­dence and yet are also not brave. That’s a tragedy that Beater never had to grap­ple with.

This is some­one that I al­ways find dif­fi­cult to talk about be­cause this per­son is also my wife. This is some­one who went through an enor­mous tran­si­tion. She is some­one from a church back­ground who be­came an amaz­ing ac­tress, be­came a dancer tour­ing the world, turned into a singer and then be­came a rain dancer. How do you man­age that as one per­son? This is some­one who I not only ad­mire but some­one who won my heart.

When you look at her now in tra­di­tional cloth­ing in Njelele you can only marvel at the tran­si­tions that she has gone through in her ca­reer. This was some­one who was cre­atively ag­gres­sive which in­spired me a lot through­out my ca­reer.

Cont Mh­langa

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