It was July 18, 2013 when I met the legendary Nomhle Nkonyeni. It was supposed to have been a triumphant evening for her, where her latest film was to have opened the biggest film festival in Africa. But it was not to be.
'Of Good Report', directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, was banned from being screened at the opening night of the Durban International Film Festival. It co-starred Nkonyeni in a role that once again proved just how versatile and brilliant a thespian she was.
It was mayhem when the notification that the Film and Publications Board had banned the film, showed up on screen. “On this day of all days! Nelson Mandela did not go to prison for there to be censorship,” said one attendee.
The cast had their lips sealed with black masking tape, while Qubeka tore up his ID book.
After things had died down and we all left to the marquee for dinner and drinks, I bumped into an older lady. I apologised and she laughed, saying: “Kugcwele apha. It’s OK my boy.”
Recognising the voice, I stopped and said hello. She then gave me her handbag and told me to walk with her.
Tongue-tied, I had no option. We eventually started talking about how tragic this was and what a waste of an evening it had been. “At least there’s going to be wine,” she said, cracking up.
Weirdly enough, I expected people to recognise her as we walked through the Suncoast Casino, yet few did.
I then spoke to her about fame and she said: “Ayenzi mehluko empilweni yethu lo-fame. I don’t care about it.”
I left her with her co-stars when we arrived at the marquee and she gave my hand a squeeze and with a smile, she turned around and focused on the conversation that was happening at her table.
Our moment, over.
Rest In Peace to the icon!