BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
UNITED KINGDOM-BASED Zimbabwean actress and choreographer Enisia Mashusha has saluted theatre guru, Cont Mhlanga of Amakhosi Theatre, for shaping her career that has seen her make her mark on the male dominated showbiz scene.
The multi-talented Mashusha established herself as a brand when she founded one of the country’s first-ever all female dance groups, Mambokadzi, that danced its way to fame between 2005 and 2010.
Mashusha took to social media to appreciate how much the playwright, actor and theatre director Mhlanga, through his Amakhosi Theatre, had moulded her into a fine artist she is today.
“Amakhosi Theatre started in 1980, I was still a baby by that time. It started as a karate club and it later turned into a cultural institution with outstanding productions. We used to see them walk past our school gate with my friends, and my friends would say those are Amakhosi celebrities and they are just from a tour abroad. Little did I know that I was to share the stage with these same celebrities in the following years,” she posted.
In a follow-up interview with NewsDay Weekender from her London base, Mashusha said she was happy to have been groomed by Mhlanga and today she is able to impart the same skills she learnt from back then at Siyaya Arts and from Mhlanga’s Amakhosi Theatre.
“I am still celebrating my artistic journey at Amakhosi Theatre. I recall that one of our powerful productions, Yebo Africa, was a musical production which incorporated music, dance, acting singing and modelling. Who ever thought curvy girls could model? But yah, with the grace of being under Cont Mhlanga’s umbrella, I went through all the grooming and steps on how to be a model,” she said.
“We used to have full houses and standing ovations whenever we performed this show (Yebo Africa) alongside Ramsey Kasawaya on our traditional wedding. One of the powerful tools that Amakhosi Theatre did was to empower us on both the production side and performance, which was an advantage to many.”
Mashusha said at Amakhosi Theatre everyone learnt how to play any musical instrument of his or her own choice as part of a Diploma course, adding that she took it upon herself to learn how to play a guitar and keyboard.
“I did well with the keyboard, perhaps because of my secretarial background and, of course, “Mhlanga meant business; kwakungadlalwa. With that I was selected to be part of the first all-female musical band in Bulawayo; rather Zimbabwe, to be precise. Women in Art is a musical production produced and directed by Cont,” she said.
“The cast; it was “cream”, with Joyce Mpofu as lead vocalist, Nomathemba Khiwa on vocals and the late Beater Mangethe on vocals. Nomsa was on drums and Nobuhle Moyo Anna on rhythm guitar. Loveness Wesa was lead guitarist, Thembi Ngwabi was on bass guitar and I was on keyboard. I am forever grateful.”
Mashusha said she was also grateful to some people like Alois “samaMoe” Moyo, an actor and director and also one of the founding members of Amakhosi Theatre as he also inspired her artistic career.
“We all know him as Seka Thuli in Stitsha, the stage play and ZTV drama series. He is a popular television and film star. He has worked on global projects with the likes of Morgan Freeman. Alois Moyo taught us to love one another, regardless of whether the person was Ndebele, Shona or Kalanga. There was always peace, love and happiness amongst us,” she said.
“One thing I have learnt from Alois was love and care for one another. I remember the song he used to sing in the production Siigaye…Singaba’ntu banye. He played the priceless unifying role as he taught us to embrace each other. Never a single day did he act untouchable, but he was a veteran, a star in the arts industry and he is still a star.”
She also paid tribute to National Art Merit Award winner Mandla Moyo, who she described as one of the finest actors to ever grace Amakhosi Theatre.
“At Amakhosi Theatre, it was all about team work. I would like to applaud my fellow artists for helping each other to be who we are in our careers today,” she said.
Mashusha challenged government, which she said was not doing anything in terms of empowering women in the performing arts.
“It is sad that women have to hustle to make it happen (for them) and this then makes it hard for women in performing arts to make a break through. Society’s narrative must also change. Why brand women who have decided to take up arts as a profession as prostitutes,” she quizzed.
“The abuse of women in arts should stop and the perpetrators should be brought to book. Some women in arts receive peanuts, causing some of them to fall into the trap of being abused by the promoters, so as to get more shows. I believe government can chip in with funding to supplement artists’ income in order to avoid the manipulation. If female artists can get a direct fund from the government, they will be empowered.”