Late lyricist, playwright Ngema gets more global recognition

Published Jun 24, 2024


Five months after his death, lyricist and playwright Dr Mbongeni Ngema is still receiving global recognition and his legacy is being kept alive.

Recently, the Thespian was honoured at the 77th annual Tony Awards at New York’s Lincoln Centre in the US last week.

He also recently bagged a nomination for the Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and TV Awards where he was recommended for the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in “A Queen’s Lobola”.

Ngema died in a car crash in December, while coming back from a funeral of a colleague in Eastern Cape.

Speaking to The Star on Monday, his brother Nhlanhla Ngema described the feeling as thrilling and a validation of his talent.

“The family is thrilled and incredibly proud of Dr Mbongeni Ngema’s global recognition. We see it as a validation of his talent, hard work, and dedication to his craft. His achievements are seen as a source of inspiration and celebration within the family, reflecting his impact and influence beyond his community or country,” Nhlanhla said.

He said the announcement to recognise Ngema by the international arena had come as a surprise to the family, as they had not been alerted to it.

“We were not notified by the Tony Awards producing team. However, this is something that they do annually for any artists of his calibre,” he said.

Asked if he could recall all his brother’s accolades Nhlanhla said there were too many to mention, but that his brother’s name is printed in New York’s Walk of Fame comes to mind faster.

“There’s just too many to mention because his career was broad. You can’t put him in a box… He wore many hats in the industry but if I should mention one, it would be on the Walk of Fame in New York as one of the greatest writers of the 21st century alongside Jerzy Grotovski, Stanislavski and Peter Brooke among others.

“His legacy will never die. Ngema has a huge catalogue of productions and music that can still be used today to educate and entertain, as some of his work was experienced more on global stages than in SA and I believe that as the politics of SA take a different route – his work is even more relevant to our country and there are plans to continue his legacy and celebrate his life through his work,” Nhlanhla said.

Dr Ngema was known for his writing skills, especially “Sarafina!” which premiered on Broadway in 1988.

It was later adapted into a musical drama starring Whoopi Goldberg in 1992, and nominated for the Tony and Grammy awards.

Other theatre productions include “Asinamali”, “Lion of the East”, and “The Zulu”.

Ngema was also known for his battle with the injustices of apartheid, while passionate about storytelling and celebrating black culture.

The Star

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