Nthati Moshesh on her 24 year artistic journey
I haven’t watched SABC3’s Real Talk in a while. It’s broadcast weekdays between 6 and 7pm with Azania Mosaka as the host. But last week the celebrity-driven magazine programme was the highlight of my television viewing.
On Tuesday, October 30, it featured Nthati Moshesh, a consummate stage and screen performer who has been gracing the small screen for 24 years. It was great television and the radiant and beautiful actress was in her element as she took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Interestingly, her first acting role was a male one.
She portrayed the Egyptian kin5g of the Genesis story in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, an American musical that was created by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It was first staged in 1968 and has since become popular among amateur theatre groups and schools across the world.
Moshesh was a pupil at the prestige St Andrews High in Bedfordview, Johannesburg when she was cast in the role of the unnamed pharaoh who befriended Joseph, a Hebrew prisoner with prophetic powers to interpret dreams. At the time the gorgeous actress with a sunny disposition studied drama as part of her matric syllabus with film as her major interest.
The musical was an end-of-year project and it would define her career in the performing arts to date. She would later acknowledge that her part in that musical really got her hooked to acting.
Subsequent roles in classic productions such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves suggested that the essence of real, genuine acting involves transcending gender and racial caricatures. It can influence audiences to see people and the world beyond these social constructs and stereotypes.
After matric Nthati enrolled at Natal Technikon for a three-year diploma in the performing arts, majoring in drama studies. Her first professional involvement in acting at the Natal Performing Arts Council in 1991 exposed her to the real world.
She took part in school tours, performing in educational dramas and projects for schoolchildren, covering a wide range of social concerns and themes such as AIDS, rape and child abuse awareness.
In 1992 she joined the now-defunct Bop Arts Council (BOPAC). It was headed by playwright and director, Walter Chakela, who she still regards highly as one of her most influential mentors during her journey as a young actress.
The highlight of her stay at BOPAC was acting in Maru, Chakela’s adaptation of Bessie Head’s famous novel. Her television debut as Lerato Mashabela, a caring, sensitive and ever-polite nurse in 1994 in Egoli: Place of Gold – the country’s first soapie – gave her instant celebrity status.
She enjoyed star treatment wherever she appeared in public. It was an overwhelming experience but she always handled the attention with grace and dignity. She kept her feet firmly on the ground and focused on perfecting her craft.
During her work at Egoli she met Thoko Ntshinga, who played powerful business executive, Donna Makaula on the soapie.
Needless to say, the veteran actress who received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAFTAs early this year became another torchbearer on her artistic journey. During the show she also doffed her hat to Maishe Maponya, another veteran playwright and poet.
Moshesh has received her fair share of awards for numerous productions she has starred in and as she approaches the big fifty next year, she continues to grace our screens and gives her all despite the challenges of the industry.
And recently the pendulum swung full circle when she landed a male role in Zakes Mda’s play titled You Fool, How Can the Skies Fall?