Zolani Mahola. Picture; Supplied

Zolani Mahola worked her way into our hearts as the lead singer of Freshlyground circa 2002. Who can forget the band’s hit song Doo Be Doo from their second album, Nomvula (2004).

While music has been a dominant factor in her career – she branched out into the acting space in the SABC1 drama, Tsha-Tsha and when she voiced Zoë in the home-grown animated feature, Zambezia (2012). 

And she’s now in rehearsals to make her stage debut in the powerful musical, Calling Me Home. But before chatting about that, we first spoke about how amazing she’s looking. 

She says: “Thank you! Yes, I reached a point about six years ago where I realised I couldn’t go on anymore with my insides being so out of line with my outers. 

“By that I mean that my image of myself in my head didn’t match what I saw in the mirror. “So I went on about a year-long journey where I really challenged myself, being incredibly careful with what I put in my body. It got very obsessive but that’s one of my character defects – I find it hard sometimes to be balanced. 

“But I’m not in that fastidious obsessive phase at the moment; having two kids helps put things in perspective. What seemed so important then is not nearly as important now.” Has her sculpted frame influenced her approach to fashion?

Mahola laughs: “I have a very eclectic style. I call it style-less!”

Zolani Mahola. Picture: Supplied

Of the lesser-explored acting side of things, Mahola admits: “I always thought I would be a stage performer actually. I studied theatre and performance (drama) at UCT and the music sort of happened during the course of my studies. This was all quite accidental. So in a way I’m coming full circle to my first love.”

By the way, the role of Lindiwe was tailor-made for Mahola. 
She explains: “The writer of the play contacted my office and made a proposal. She had written the part with my voice in mind and was interested to know if I’d ever want to perform in the musical. I was... and the rest is history!”

Calling Me Home depicts the journeys of three women who each find their own personal power. Grace (Lynelle Kenned) is a young African woman who flees her war-torn homeland to try to survive in a country of concrete cityscapes, crime and danger. With her is her new friend Lindiwe (Mahola), who has fled her home too, but in Lindiwe’s case it is a flight from abuse and pain. 

Finally, there is the beautiful but deeply troubled Isabella (Samantha Peo), who finds the strength and courage to conquer almost insurmountable challenges when she overcomes addiction, both chemical and emotional, to take the moral lead in her community. 

Zolani Mahola. Picture: Supplied

This empowering production has been timed perfectly with Women’s Day celebrated in August. 

Mahola says, “It is surrounded by female heroes both on and offstage. The entire grand work has been written by Alice Gillham.”

* Calling me Home is on at the Joburg Theatre from August 14 until September 3.