Styx Mhlanga’s artistic journey


The history of local theatre would not be complete without a mention of one of celebrated artists Styx Mhlanga, a veteran actor and director.

The award-winning artist, who is also a playwright, having penned plays like The U-Turn, Keep In Touch, Born Again and The Mask among others has come a long way in the arts industry.

NewsDay caught up with Mhlanga at his Studio X Artists studio at the Bulawayo Art Gallery where he spoke about his passion for theatre.

He also revealed that he is a published Ndebele novelist something that most people were not aware of.

“I write Ndebele novels,” said Mhlanga who uses gestures extensively when he speaks probably as a result of the many years he has spent on stage.

Watching him talk about his works, one would be pardoned to think that the veteran actor is already performing some scenes from his plays as he stands up, walks from one end to another and makes emphatic signals.

“I have a passion for writing. I believe we need to give attention to the Ndebele language. There are a lot of stories that need to be told; the difficulties and the joys that people go through,” he said.

“When I write Ndebele stories, I also mix with the English language, especially dialogue because my books are based on modern life, what transpires in the cities.”

His first novel Ngekekulunge was published in 2009. He said he is working on another one entitled Izwe Linciphile which is about the land reform programme.

He says the programme has caused a lot of controversy since resettled people are now fighting over the land that was parceled out.

“My stories are about the things that I see happening near Emganwini suburb where I live,” said the artist.
Turning back to theatre, he said some of the plays he has directed that have had an impact on theatre lovers include Aristophane’s Lysistrata and Sophocles’ Oedipus The King.

“I now direct classic plays exclusively. I want to work on material that has stood the test of time. I then adapt the material and make it relevant to our African setting.”

He said the process though is tedious and there is “need for attention to detail”.

At the moment, he is working on the play, Mother Courage which would be part of the Amakhosi Elite 400’s winter programme.

He said he plans to put up a show in summer that will track the history of Amakhosi Arts, directed by his brother Cont, since it was founded.

“We will tell it through one of the most popular plays ever produced at that centre entitled Nansi Lendoda. It has made history because it has been directed by four different artists,” he said.

Mhlanga is a member of the Lincoln Centre Directors’ Lab, an international association of directors that leads in sharing of ideas in theatre productions and exchange of skills.