Kutloano Headbush on health struggles and passion for telling ‘beautiful African stories’

MULTI-TALENTED entertainer Kutloano Headbush. Picture: Supplied.

MULTI-TALENTED entertainer Kutloano Headbush. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jul 1, 2024


MULTI-talented performer Kutloano Headbush’s love for reading has seen her blossom into a storyteller who hopes to inspire all those who come across her work.

The South African-born actress and dancer, who is currently living in Los Angeles, is passionate about “beautiful African stories” as well as captivating tales about womanhood, immigration and overcoming hardships.

“Giving voices to people and platforms to experiences that which I believe have been overlooked drives me to keep creating,” she explained to Independent Media Lifestyle.

The 27-year-old, who has starred in the court drama “Justice for the People” as well as “The Missing Middle”, which was directed by award-winning Chinese-American filmmaker Jordan Qin, said the origins of her career began in a library, as a child.

“I remember feeling like such a nerd in primary school because I always won the award for the most checked-out books from the library. But little did I know where that love for stories would lead me.

Headbush started her performance career in theatre, having performed in various productions such as “Anatarabhua” and “Herstory Museum”.

MULTI-TALENTED entertainer Kutloano Headbush. Picture: Supplied.

She has danced and choreographed for Cape Town’s prestigious Unmute Dance Company and has also featured in the Global Water Dances International Festival.

Headbush’s talents also extend to film-making. She wrote and produced “Lapeng”, a film aimed at advocating for victims of gender-based violence. In this production, she performed alongside acclaimed local actress Clementine Mosimane.

“My career highlight has definitely been making my first short film, ‘Lapeng’, and taking a project from concept to post-production has been such a journey. What was once just an idea in my head has now been brought to life.”

She has described working alongside Mosimane as “a true dream come true”.

“I remember binge-watching ‘How to Ruin Christmas’ season 3 on Netflix, in awe of her performance, only to find myself performing with her a few months later, in even greater awe.”

Headbush added that what made “Lapeng” even more significant was that it was shot at her grandmother’s house.

“Getting the opportunity to share my craft with my grandmother was such a treat, and watching her and Clementine laugh and bond each day really put the cherry on top of ‘Lapeng’ as my career highlight so far,” she said.

Meanwhile, Headbush’s other illustrious career highlights include performing the lead in multiple short films such as “2An Ideal of Liberty”.

Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Noel Paganotti, the production was selected for official selection at the Utah Film Festival, the Beaufort Film Festival and the LA Short Films Festival.

She is also thrilled to have worked with American director Jaya Armstead in the film “Fall for You” as well starring in “Journey”, where she played the lead role Phoenix, who overcomes fear of water with the help of African water goddess Yemaya.

She also featured in the fantasy series “Circle of the Shadowmoon”, which won the Best TV/Web Series at the Florence Film Festival, won the Gold Award for Best TV/Web Series and was nominated for best Fantasy at the Red Movie Awards.

Despite her many successes, Headbush had to overcome health challenges at an early age as she developed a tumour in her left ankle in primary school.

Fortunately, it was benign but, after the surgery to remove it, she started noticing involuntary movement in her left leg.

She was then diagnosed with dystonia, a rare neurological movement disorder usually seen as a symptom of Parkinson’s or a brain injury.

This affected her life as a performer and led to struggles during movement classes and dance productions. It also impacted her daily life as she had to learn to write with her left hand in Grade 11 because her right hand was too badly affected to allow her to write freely and without pain.

In 2018, she underwent brain surgery and after not being able to walk straight, Headbush is now able to run and is ambidextrous, which means that she is able to use the right and left hands equally well.

Following her health struggles, Headbush advocates for more inclusivity for differently-able performers.

“My health challenges have inspired a sense of ingenuity to my art, making me see and experience things differently, and it has sparked ingenuity in my art, allowing me to perceive and experience things differently,” she explained.

Her advice to aspiring artists is to “keep creating”.

“Even if no one is watching, even if you haven't yet gotten the courage to share your art, even if you don’t have the support of family or friends, keep creating.”