Ntsiki Mzwai. Picture: Twitter
“In high school I thought I was being bullied,” admits poet Ntsiki Mazwai. “But now that I am a grown woman, after a lot of reflection and also seeing that the world still attacks me and deals with me in the same way, to me it means I am a lightning rod for exposing issues.”

We caught up with the bubbly artist in Chiawelo in Soweto where she reflected on how her journey in the entertainment industry has been full of highs and lows that led her to depression. None of which she wanted, she says.

“All of this (fame) was thrown at me. I don’t care about all of this stuff. I just wanted my voice to be heard and have a platform so that I can conscientise. I didn’t want to live up to the whole glamour thing because it’s just exhausting,” says the Uwrongo hitmaker.

Mazwai, who turns 37 on Sunday, September 3, says she was attacked because she spoke out on subjects that were uncomfortable to hear or deal with.

“Luckily my personality is not what people would expect. The media has projected this very dramatic person. But in real life, when I’m walking the streets, in my little space, I am doing my things quietly.

“I am not that dramatic thing that they have put there,” she says.

And from her teenage years, that is the image she has had to live with because she was different.

When she started in the industry, Ntsiki’s house music was not a true reflection of who she is, but when she released a compilation in her own style in 2013, the album failed.

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“It killed me. And I realised that if you don’t walk into this industry with a man, the industry does not carry you. My catalogue of music is huge, but because I am not walking with men, I am doomed.”

Ntsiki went through major depression and she feels that people and the media were not kind to her and did not understand that she was in a state.

Ntsiki Mazwai. Picture: Supplied

But she survived the battles, the public scrutiny and being compared to her older sister and kept trying to make her mark. Now she is developing artists, doing bead-work and spending more time on poetry.

“I think a lot of my strength comes from the fact that I don’t stop. If I do something, I don’t let it go.”

And 2016 was a turning point for her, a year of pruning from which she emerged with a new purpose. “I’ve learnt a lot about myself and now I am able to withdraw from a lot of things. After this past year, I have actually chilled out.”

“People must never undermine what Grahamstown did for me. It grew my art and made me stand firmer,” she said.

Ntiski chose to live and travel alone that year. “To find myself.”

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“With my Masters degree I had to write a memoir. And that came with sitting down with myself and unpacking everything and all the dark things I’ve faced. I had to document and heal.”

Now Ntsiki wants to develop untapped artists, especially in townships, which should be entertainment hubs.

“I am committed to the creative development of South Africa, and artists in townships.

“Last year, obviously my perspective had changed completely. I came back as an outsider who can recognise opportunity and Soweto, as the most famous township in the world, is one and should be booming economically.

“So I am trying to come back into Soweto to be a part of that process,” she says.

This is what matters to the star, not the fluff of social media fights or negative publicity.

“And that’s the battle I am going through now. People are attracted to the wrong things,” she says.

Ntsiki is also involved in developing art in prisons.

“My role as an artist is to work with the spirit of a person and make them feel good. So people can be inspired to be better within themselves. And that is why I get frustrated at the fluff because I am actually doing real things that you’d be doing too if you were exposed to them and we’d all be in a better South Africa.”

Her story is one of resilience and fearlessness.

“People close to me understand me and my journey. And right now that is all that matters to me. My heart is so happy and now I am filling all the spiritual gaps and spaces from my childhood.”

And building in the art space, she adds.

Ntsiki hosts live music sessions every Tuesday in Soweto and will be producing more bead-work to be showcased at Vilakazi Street.

“It’s been so difficult to recover from the depression. I’m just happy that I am not sad anymore.”