Poetry has played an essential role in Masoja Msiza’s journey as a performer, artist and social commentator. He has used it to educate, entertain and rehabilitate.
Although his life as a performance poet can be traced to his early years growing up in KwaThema, on the East Rand, his television career as an actor began in 2003, when he was a stage performer and facilitator of poetry sessions at the Windybrow Theatre - in those years a pulsating cultural hub known as Joburg’s most prominent centre of the arts, a meeting place for writers, poets, actors, painters and other creative souls.
Here, Msiza spent nine years, with his other role as a workshop facilitator for aspiring poets and performers. He reckons that meeting Walter Chakela changed his life. The resident playwright and artistic director was impressed by Msiza’s talent for poetry and encouraged him to develop into a formidable stage act.
He performed one of his poems, uJudase (2007) - based on the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ - to critical acclaim. Carlyn de Waal, an actors’ agent and co-founder of the South African Guild of Artists, was in the audience.
After the show, De Waal approached him with an offer to act on television dramas.
The deal led to the supporting role of Bheki in the first season of Mtunzini.com, an SABC1 murder mystery series that unfolds against the background of an online magazine based in the small coastal town of Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal.
Subsequently Msiza achieved several appearances in a number of television shows such as Jozi Streets, Scandal!, A Place Called Home, Sokhulu & Partners and Rhythm City - to mention a few.
Most TV viewers will remember him as Mandla, the unscrupulous boxing trainer in Ring of Lies, one of Mzansi Magic’s popular telenovelas that also stars Florence Masebe and Sello Motloung.
But few could have been prepared for his latest villain role of Nkunzi in Uzalo.
After the departure of Mpumelelo Bhulose (Gxabhashe) from SABC1’s most watched show, it was imperative for the producers to create another character with enough charisma and talent to consolidate the high ratings.
Nkunzi fits the bill perfectly. It is a character that combines the slyness of a fox with the ruthlessness of a cornered buffalo bull.
Although he would like to be regarded as a reformed gangster and therefore a respectable member of society, Nkunzi is still very much the boss of the criminal underworld, and the nemesis of honest law enforcement officers.
The fact that he has married Gxabhashe’s widow, MaNgcobo (Dawn King), and lives in his house, has prepared the ground for a brewing showdown with Mkhonto (Bonga Dlamini), the comeback troublesome kid of the deceased, who is evidently spoiling for a fight.
The role of Nkunzi is an intriguing and compelling one.
He is a worldly character who has not only mastered the underworld as hijack kingpin, but also understands the spiritual realm of church pastors.
His wisdom enables him to manipulate both worlds at will - thanks to his foxy personality and gift of the gab. And if you listen carefully to his lines, the actor’s lyrical poetry rings through.