Lo­cal Celeb – Seipati Motshwane

We caught up with Mme SEIPATI MOTSHWANE, 64, who has been an ac­tress for over 30 years. We found out that she’s a tra­di­tion­al­ist at heart, with a per­son­al­ity as warm as a tight hug


You may re­mem­ber Mme Seipati from her roles on Soul Bud­dyz, Egoli, In­ter­sex­ions and

Scan­dal! She’s been on the small screen since the ‘80s, and her pas­sion for the arts has ce­mented her vet­eran sta­tus. When it comes to longevity, this The Throne ac­tress says that her hu­mil­ity and per­se­ver­ance have stood her in good stead.

I was born and bred in the most ru­ral part of Zeerust in North West. Af­ter matric, I came to Joburg, at age 19, in search of greener pas­tures. I didn’t know where I’d end up, but al­ways knew that work­ing in show­biz was my ul­ti­mate goal.

Show­biz was my call­ing. As far as I can re­mem­ber, I’ve al­ways wanted to be in the spot­light. When I was in stan­dard three (Grade 5), I used to cut out fa­mous mod­els and singers from news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and place them on my wall — I wanted to travel the world just like them. Weirdly enough, I never told any­one about this dream. But I came to Joburg to look for the­atres and agents so I could crack it in the in­dus­try.

I first started out as a model. I did that for a while, but it was very dif­fi­cult back then be­cause they wanted girls who looked like lo­cal ver­sions of in­ter­na­tional model, Iman. I then got my first job in show­biz in 1979 as part of the Sun City Ex­trav­a­ganza, where I was a show­girl un­til 1984. The show was syn­ony­mous with the likes of Moulin Rouge and the Lido de Paris show. It was quite a big deal back then.

The Sun City Ex­trav­a­ganza opened my world up to a lot of pos­si­bil­i­ties. I went to stay with a friend I’d met dur­ing the show in Lon­don, and to­gether we trav­elled to Paris and Greece. I fi­nally got to see the world as I’d dreamt of. I went as far as try­ing out for the Lido de Paris show, and ac­tu­ally spoke with the owner. She loved me but said I couldn’t join be­cause it was the mid­dle of the year. I was proud of my­self for hav­ing been brave enough to even try.

My first TV show was a drama se­ries called Ga Bo Se Gangwe in 1986. My agent gave me my first act­ing lessons and from then on, other op­por­tu­ni­ties came flock­ing in. Ev­ery ac­tor knows that there is a dry sea­son. But I kept go­ing to au­di­tions be­cause I love act­ing. In be­tween the act­ing gigs, ra­dio voiceovers keep me afloat fi­nan­cially. Af­ter do­ing The Im­poster, I had no gigs ex­cept for my ra­dio drama se­ries on Motswed­ing FM. I’ve learnt to jug­gle things round when there are no act­ing jobs avail­able. In my 32 years in en­ter­tain­ment, I’ve learnt to save ev­ery cent that I get from each pro­duc­tion. To sup­ple­ment my act­ing in­come, I also run small busi­nesses back home where I ask my fam­ily to sell things for me. I’m grate­ful to God for hav­ing lasted this long in an in­dus­try that’s known to be fickle. Some of my peers, whom I started with back in the ‘80s, no longer work. It’s such a great feel­ing to still be do­ing what I love all these years later.

I first met Fer­gu­son Films’ Shona Fer­gu­son on the set of Isidingo, where we played mother and son. I asked him to please in­form me the next time he works on a drama se­ries, and that’s how I got to be in

Rockville sea­son 2. I au­di­tioned and got the job. He called me for my role on The Im­poster be­cause they were specif­i­cally look­ing for some­one who spoke im­pec­ca­ble Setswana. Once again, they thought I’d be a per­fect fit for The Throne, which is a Setswana drama se­ries.

The Throne is, with­out a doubt, my big­gest break. It’s been a beau­ti­ful pro­duc­tion to work on, and I love that it’s get­ting so much love and at­ten­tion on so­cial me­dia. I play one of the lead roles, Sephiri, which has brought with it a lot of at­ten­tion.

I’ve learnt that tim­ing is ev­ery­thing. Re­ceiv­ing a big role at my age has been a bless­ing be­cause had it come when I was younger, I wouldn’t have been able to ex­e­cute it the way I am now. I love Sephiri — she’s

lastig (an­noy­ing), in­quis­i­tive, goes where she shouldn’t and dishes out ad­vice even when it isn’t needed [chuck­les].

I’m hon­oured to be a part of a pro­duc­tion that ad­vances Setswana cul­ture and her­itage. Setswana isn’t well rep­re­sented on tele­vi­sion, es­pe­cially in te­len­ov­e­las. I’m glad that The Throne came about, and that I’m in­volved in it. See­ing your norms and tra­di­tions re­flected back to you on tele­vi­sion is re­ally some­thing spe­cial. We’re not do­ing enough to rep­re­sent other lan­guages like Xit­songa, Nde­bele and isiSwati in their en­tirety. I’m a tra­di­tion­al­ist at heart, so the more rep­re­sen­ta­tion we have, the more re­as­sured I feel that we are go­ing back to our African roots.

I still get stopped on the streets when peo­ple recog­nise me, and it’s such an amaz­ing feel­ing. My daugh­ter, who’s my only child, didn’t un­der­stand when she was younger. But now, she walks away and does her own thing when fans ap­proach me. She says she’s happy that I have fi­nally ‘made it’.

I’m such a soft mother — in fact, I ac­tu­ally think I’m a walkover in some in­stances [chuck­les]. I don’t shout much but I put rules in place. I’m a happy grand­mother of two — my el­dest grand­son is 12, and the other is two.

In this in­dus­try, there’s no such thing as ‘I’ve made it’ or think­ing you’ll stay at the top for­ever. It’s im­por­tant to stay hum­ble at all times so that when you’re down and out, the very same peo­ple you were cour­te­ous to can help carry you to the top again. Re­mem­ber that you’re do­ing it for the peo­ple, so stay grounded.

Re­tir­ing is not an op­tion for me. One of the rea­sons I love show­biz so much is that there’s no re­tire­ment age. I’ll still be ac­cept­ing jobs, even when I’m on a walk­ing stick. I hon­estly can’t pic­ture my­self do­ing any­thing else! •

I’m hon­oured to be a part of a pro­duc­tion that ad­vances Setswana cul­ture and her­itage.

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