Ngema remembered as one of the greatest playwrights South Africa has had

Dr Mbongeni Ngema. Picture: File

Dr Mbongeni Ngema. Picture: File

Published Dec 28, 2023


Tributes continue to pour in for the legendary musician and playwright Dr Mbongeni Ngema, 68, who died in a car accident in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday evening.

His death has left many fans reeling in shock.

Many of his acquaintances have lauded him for telling South African stories that have impacted and touched viewers from all over the world.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is among those who shared their heartfelt condolences to Ngema’s loved ones.

“I offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and associates of our cultural stalwart, Mbongeni Ngema, who has lost his life in a vehicle accident.

“His masterfully creative narration of our liberation Struggle honoured the humanity of oppressed South Africans and exposed the inhumanity of an oppressive regime.

“The many productions he created or to which he contributed inspired resilience and pride among us as fellow South Africans and took South Africa and our continent into the theatres, homes and consciousness of millions of people around the world. May his soul rest in peace,” Ramaphosa said.

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa said the country had lost one of its greatest playwrights.

Kodwa said the musician had made significant contributions to the growth of creative arts in communities through his work with the Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture and its agencies, such as the Playhouse Company.

“With the passing of Dr Mbongeni Ngema, South Africa has lost one of its great playwrights, composers, lyricists, directors and musicians. Dr Ngema’s work was celebrated in South Africa and internationally.

“At a critical time in the liberation Struggle against apartheid, Dr Ngema took the plays ‘Woza Albert’, ‘Asinamali’ and ‘Sarafina’ to international stages. These productions not only showcased South African talent but also narrated to the world the experiences of South Africans who were ostracised and brutalised under apartheid.”

Ngema’s work has received international praise, along with Tony Award nominations for “Asinamali” and “Sarafina”.

He was also nominated for a Grammy Award for his work in “Sarafina” and “The Lion King”.

Ngema made appearances in several films, among them the adaptation of “Sarafina” and the Oscar-nominated “Yesterday”, demonstrating his artistic talent.

He won various honours in South Africa, including the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the South African Music Awards and the Naledi Theatre Awards.

Media personality Minnie Dlamini remembered Ngema as one of the greatest playwrights and talents the country has produced.

“I remember studying his work in dramatic arts at school and realising his genius was before ‘Sarafina’!!! His performance in ‘Woza Albert’ is physical theatre in its absolute perfection, which he wrote too.

“However, all his global accolades are made sweeter by my father’s memory of the young legend. They grew up in KwaMashu, in Durban, the township I was born in. My dad would tell the story and just laugh,” said Dlamini.

The Star

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