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Mamela Nyamza praises Raymond Ackerman for supporting the arts and her dream as an artist

Mamela Nyamza. Picture: Facebook

Mamela Nyamza. Picture: Facebook

Published Sep 8, 2023


Tributes continue pouring in for Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman, who passed on Wednesday, September 6, at the age of 92.

In a statement shared by the Pick’ Pay on social media, Ackerman has been described as a visionary entrepreneur, humanitarian and a great South African.

The organisation said South Africa has lost a “brilliant patriot who always saw a positive future” for the country.

Ackerman's contributions to the country are being recognised and celebrated by many, including dance and choreographer extraordinaire, Mamela Nyamza.

In a conversation with Independent Media Lifestyle, Nyamza reflected on the enduring relationship she had with Ackerman.

She explained that his unwavering support, not just through financial assistance but also through personal mentorship and encouragement, played a pivotal role in her development as a respected global choreographer.

Nyamza said she first encountered Ackerman at the age of eight when she was a ballet student at Zama Dance School, in Gugulethu, Cape Town, and they had kept in touch ever since.

“That guy has done a lot for many in this country. Our journey began at Zama Dance School when I was a little girl.

“Back then our parents and grandmothers could not afford pointe shoes and leotards because ballet was a very elite art form but Ackerman sponsored us.

“He has followed my journey and witnessed me become the respectable, global choreographer that I am today. He was there every step of the way. And I’ve always told him that ‘I wouldn't have been where I am without him.’

“He was not just be someone who will give you funding, he will make sure you succeed I never wanted to disappoint him, and I know he’s proud of what I have become.

“Even when times were tough for me as an artist, he would send me grocery vouchers, so why would I keep quiet? Why would I not celebrate his life? That has been my journey with Mr Ackerman and I will forever be indebted to him.”

Taking to her Instagram, Nyamza also shared the impact he had on the arts and artists in South Africa.

“(He was) the greatest supporter of Arts and Artists,” wrote Nyamza.

From providing financial assistance during her education at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre to continuing to support her even after she graduated, Ackerman played a significant role in Nyamza's journey as an artist.

“Without Mr Raymond Ackerman, I would never ever come close to achieving what I have achieved so far as an artist. I have a National Diploma in Ballet because of the generous support of Mr A, monthly at Alvin Ailey in America, I received pocket money from him.”

“All through the years, Mr Ackerman was there when I needed him.”

Ackerman went on to fund Nyamza’s latest dance masterpiece “Hatched Ensemble”, which debuted at the National Arts Festival, in July.

The production recently made waves at the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, in Durban, and now it’s headed to the Market Theatre, next week.

“Mr Ackerman helped fill the gap in funding so that I could present “Hatched Ensemble” at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda.

I’m proud to say (Amohelang), who also received her training at Zama Dance School, was one of the dancers in this new work which we are now presenting at the Market Theatre.

“Please know that I also learned from Mr. Ackerman that in addition to striving for artistic excellence, it is my responsibility to give back.

“To that end, I have made it my mission to teach Master Classes wherever I am asked and to guide and support young dancers on their way to making dance a career.

“Wherever you may see me present my work, please know that I am doing so because of Mr Ackerman and Arlene Westergaard. Through their love and generosity, I have made a life for myself far beyond my early expectations.

“I stand on their shoulders and will carry forward the many lessons I learned from them. I am just one of those children in the growing pool of Zama’s waters and we are the ripples that continue to expand the circle.

“Hamba kahle (Farewell) Mr A. undibulisele (please greet) ku John Simon's and Arlene, my greatest mentors!”

Ackerman's legacy as a patron of the arts and his unwavering support for artists like Mamela Nyamza will undoubtedly be remembered and celebrated for generations to come.