Sibanda: Byo's new stage queen

BULAWAYO - Actress Musawenkosi Sibanda (22) is the odd one out in a family dominated by white-collar professionals.

Despite having no family role mode to look up to, Sibanda, the last-born child in a family of four, has become a firm favourite of playwrights and directors in Bulawayo’s blossoming theatre sector.

“I never had acting in mind up until I was in grade six when I took part in a play during a primary school competition which was organised by Amakhosi Cultural Centre.

“We lost in that competition and that was the only time I had a go at acting up until when I was doing ordinary levels at Mandwandwe High School when I was part of the school drama club that took part in the Plan International High School Drama Competition which was part of the Intwasa Arts Festival.

“The theme of that competition was ‘Because I am girl.’ Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the finals,” she recalled in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday.

Despite impressing at the Intwasa Arts Festival event, Sibanda at that point did not view acting as a potential career choice.

It was only after she met a friend who was part of an acting class run by the Nhimbe Trust-organised Schools Playwrights and Actors Association (SPAA) that she began to take acting and theatre more seriously. She joined the 2-year SPAA acting class that set into motion the genesis of her acting career.

As part of the training, Sibanda was attached to the Thabani Moyo- run Centre For Talent Development (CTD) where she was taught how to adapt a novel into a play.

At CTD, she was included in the cast of plays like ‘Dolls House,’ ‘The Lion and the Jewel’ and ‘Song of Lawino’ that were showcased at the 2013 Intwasa Arts Festival under the ‘Live Literature Programme.’

“Dolls House was my first stage play. Initially, I had very anxious moments; it was very terrifying but through the support of my colleagues I managed to overcome all that. The plays gave me the much-needed confidence and gradually they ushered me into professional acting,” Sibanda said.

After the 2-year SPAA training, Sibanda auditioned for a play titled ‘Mothers’ that was directed by Thembi Ngwabi, wife to Amakhosi director Cont Mhlanga.

“It was amazing to be part of ‘Mothers’ but the most inspiring aspect was that I was to act alongside Sarah Mpofu, a veteran actress that I had always looked up when I got interested in acting. The play was a two-hander, so it was the two of us and I had a good time there,” she recalls.

In 2014, Sibanda, whose star continued to rise, was part of two actresses invited to the Cape Town Fringe Festival as part of a cultural exchange programme.

“Last year I was also selected to be part of the Twist Project in Grahamstown, South Africa. The programme was specifically for acting. It was only me and Bathabile Dlamini who were from Zimbabwe. The selection process was done on the basis of video clips of our acting that we submitted,” she said.

Last year she was included in the cast of ‘The Taking,’ directed by Raisedon Baya, which was arguably one of the most popular plays to come out of Zimbabwe in 2015. In addition to that, the 22 year old actress also got a role in ‘Let it Out,’ a gender-based play directed  by Thembi Moyo that was showcased during the 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

While other actors and actresses are struggling to land roles, the young actress will feature in the play, ‘Addicted,’ directed by Baya, that will premiere at Bulawayo Theatre this month end.

Sibanda, who is studying language and communication at Lupane State University, is relishing being part of Zimbabwe’s acting industry.

“I just love being on stage, I love acting. Sometimes it is somewhat intimidating but it is largely a lovely and fantastic experience. The fact that I get to engage the audience and get them to understand me is very inspiring. I t is very gratifying to realise that what I do on stage can change people’s lives in different ways.

“My strength on stage is all derived from my dedication and my determination to learn from others especially my seniors. I am one person who is always hungry to learn,” Sibanda said.

She is grateful to Mpofu, Baya and Memory Kumbota who have been instrumental in making her the actor she has become.

“As for Sarah, I admire her confidence and acting prowess. Baya and Kumbota have taught me a lot in the industry .They taught me to believe in myself. I will keep learning from them because I aspire to be a director,” she said.

While no one in her family has ever been into the arts industry, she has been over-joyed by the unconditional support she continues to receive from them.

“I love my family. Their support has played a big role in building my acting career,” said Sibanda.

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