South African actresses are a rare breed; being able to call myself a South African actress makes me very proud indeed. What characteristics differentiate us South African actresses from others? This is a question that I wish not to give you the answer to, but show you instead.
Television in South Africa is one of the most dominant entertainment mediums along with radio and print. Most South African actresses begin their carers on TV (apart from a select few including the likes of Terry Pheto and Charlize Theron who established themselves on the big screen.) In this case, I am no exception to the rule. TV was my first platform. I began my TV career as a TV presenter rather than actress. I wanted to delve deeper though, and having studied film production, acting became a natural inclination.
Being a South African actress requires resilience, patience and a strong willed mentality. These attributes are easy to list, but difficult to practice. Most South African actresses including myself didn’t have the luxury of studying the dramatic arts. I suspect this commonality amongst us is by virtue of our being raised in societies that refuse to embrace artistic ambitions. Most of my training took place in the real world, on stage and on set.
HOW TO BE A SOUTH AFRICAN ACTRESS IN 11 LANGUAGES
South Africa has 11 official languages and due to the fact that most people watch television, one has to be multilingual. I speak English, Sesotho, Setswana and basic Dutch (which is similar to Afrikaans). The issue of multilingualism leads me to the importance of performing in ones mother tongue. Movie making industries such a Bollywood have long came to the realisation that the moment English becomes the predominant tongue in a production, the production is completing with all the English speaking productions all over the world. That is a lot of competition! Speaking in ones vernacular dialect identifies and captures those who speak in the same tongue. The discourse in language is what welcomes or alienates us from the spoken word.
Tamil for instance, is a dialect spoken in South India and spoken by many a famous Bollywood actress. Hot on the heels of American Actresses are Bollywood actresses nowadays; they too achieve international recognition without having to say a word in English. Their work is done almost entirely in Tamil. Hot actress or not, in South Africa you must be bilingual…at least!
WHERE THIS SOUTH AFRICAN ACTRESS HAS HER ROOTS
When I said TV was my first acting platform; I lied. In actual fact I began acting at a very young age, always involved in the school plays and in high school, became a regular cast member in the annual pantomimes. So the stage was the first platform that housed my acting skills. Every year, the grade 6s in my primary school would put on a show; a theatre production based on a famous Disney story or fairytale. I had been looking forward to grade 6 all my life because of this and when I heard we would be performing Alice in Wonderland, I was beside myself with joy and excitement! In my mind I was Alice and the drama teacher would surely see it too. I was confident walking into my audition. I knew all my lines, a feat that most kids seemed to struggle with. In a few days they were to announce who made the cut.
In a few days I would suffer the biggest disappointment of my early life after learning that I wasn’t going to play Alice…I was to play the pigeon instead…PIGEON!? After the initial shock came acceptance and I must say, I was the best pigeon that could ever have been played by a 9-year-old female human being. I even took some egg trays from the kitchen to use as props (where I would put my pigeon eggs)…I was a pigeon, the only thing I couldn’t do was fly.
OTHER INSPIRING SOUTH AFRICAN ACTRESSES
As I got older, and Google started becoming my best friend, I would search South African actress images, biographies and videos on the Internet. There weren’t many acting opportunities in Lesotho so I would live vicariously through them. A few South African actresses that inspired me were Connie Ferguson, Pamela Nomvete and Leleti Khumalo. They were (and still are) all very beautiful and skilled actresses; hot topics back in their day.
I love acting. Every role I embody poses a challenge; conquering it gives me great satisfaction. It is, at times, difficult to suppress the ego enough to portray a role as humbly and successfully as possible. I believe Yoshi Oida‘s teaching: the actor must disappear and become invisible. This might seem counter intuitive. Actors have become infamous for being dominant in their presence wherever they go, even on the screen. Indeed some actors have lost the plot when it comes to making characters about their real selves. This is not acting.
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