KHULEKANI Ndlovu is an 18-year-old poet, aspiring author, motivational speaker and actress who grew up in Marondera although she is originally from Bulawayo. She specialises in both page and stage poetry. Khulekani’s first public performance was in July 2017 at the SASSAF school festival competitions. In the same year, she joined Poetry Planet, a grouping of thousands of international poets and was featured in an anthology with 100 other poets. In 2018, Khulekani performed alongside her mentor Albert Nyathi before delegates from all over Africa during the Innovation Africa Day and was also featured at the Up in Smoke poetry event in 2019. An A-Level sciences student, the 18-year-old beauty had the best O-Level results (12As and 1B) at Marondera High School, and won a floating trophy for her efforts. In January this year, Khulekani (KN) released a short film on gender-based violence. She speaks to NewsDay (ND) features & lifestyle editor Phillip Chidavaenzi. Below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: At what stage in your life did you develop an interest in poetry?
KN: I developed interest while I was in primary school but only did something about it at the age of 15.
ND: And how did that pan out into acting? As an actress, which productions have you featured in?
KN: Since developing an interest in stage poetry, I also saw myself as an actress but not long ago. The production I have featured in is my own production of a short film titled I Am a Woman, but there are forthcoming productions I am set to feature in after the COVID-19 lockdown.
ND: You had your first public performance in July 2017 in the SASSAF competitions. What was the significance of that in your journey as a poet?
KN: The significance of that performance in my journey was that it served as a confirmation that poetry was really what I loved.
ND: You were featured in the Heart to Heart Mosaic anthology with 100 poets, as the youngest and only black poet. What did that mean to you?
KN: Being featured in that anthology meant a lot to me because it gave me a high dose of confidence and motivation that I can achieve a lot at a young age.
ND: You bask under the mentorship of Albert Nyathi. How has that impacted your growth as an artist?
KN: Being under the mentorship of Nyathi has impacted me in a positive way by opening me up to new experiences and new ways to deliver a great performance.
ND: You also had an experience with renowned author Virginia Phiri. Can you tell us about that, and how it made you feel?
KN: The first time I met Virginia was at a performance that Nyathi took me to, at Theatre in the Park. Coincidentally I sat next to her and we had a conversation. At first I didn’t recognise her because it was dark, but when she gave me her business card and I saw her name, I was ecstatic.
ND: In modelling, a potential deal involving Jonathan Denga, one of the best ever models from Zimbabwe, fell through. Can you share with us how that happened?
KN: I was about to sign a contract with an emerging modelling agency and that day I met my mum’s childhood friend. He advised me that the contract was going to tie me forever to the agency, so he called Jonathan Denga and told him about me and my passion. That’s how I started communicating with him, but because of time and managing other talent I had to let go of the opportunity.
ND: Is there a possibility it can be resuscitated in future?
KN: Unfortunately, over time I lost contact with him, so I’m not certain if that potential deal can be resuscitated but I’m sure many more deals are going to be born.
ND: You are also a designer. How do all these various artistic strands connect?
KN: I don’t know how everything connects together, but I guess when art is inside you, it can express itself in various forms without much difficulty.
ND: Which would you say is your strongest strand and why?
KN: My strongest strand is poetry because I have had passion for it ever since I was so young and I’m just so connected to it.