Cont Mhlanga calls it a day
By Sindiso Dube
Cont Mhlanga is a name associated with arts, creativity and growth and one cannot talk of the Zimbabwean arts scene without Mhlanga’s name.
The Godfather of Arts, Mhlanga has published three books and wrote more than 20 plays among them The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs, The Members, Vikela and has directed Bamqgibela Ephila and Omunye Umngcwabo.
He is a well-known critic of President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Mhlanga’s politically-charged play The Good President won him an Art Venture Freedom to Create award, shrugging off challenge from nearly 1 000 entrants from 86 countries.
However, The Good President was banned in Zimbabwe. Although presented as a fictional account, its depiction of an African dictator who has ruled his country since 1980 closely mirrors current events in Zimbabwe.
Mhlanga and Amakhosi Cultural Centre were also awarded the Prince Claus award in December last year, an accolade given in honour of Prince Claus of the Netherlands. It was an honour for outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development.
Mhlanga said it would be great if the local arts sector recognised them like what foreigners do.
“Most of the acknowledgement comes from foreigners, it takes a foreigner to see the good works one does but locals tend to turn a blind eye,” Mhlanga said.
The arts guru, who founded Amakhosi Cultural Centre in 1982, decided to retire from all work associated with Amakhosi. He has moved to his rural home Lupane, saying it was time to give new blood a chance.
“I decided to rest from arts activities and by doing so, I have relocated to my rural area in Lupane. There is fresh air here and off the pressures of the big city. I am taking my time out and learning new things here,” he said.
Mhlanga said young people have more opportunities of making it big in the arts industry.
“We started arts before it became an industry. It is now a big industry and many people are surviving out of it,” he said.
“Youths should understand that to create content, it takes passion rather than money. It is passion that attracts money. Back in our days we used to do arts out of passion and love; we would do it for free but times have changed now, arts is now business, it’s no longer a hobby like before.”
Mhlanga said he believed in the new crop at Amakhosi led by programmes manager Thulani “Mbambo” Khumalo.
“I believe in them; they are good with what they do, most of them have been working with me for the past few years, so it won’t be new to them. I won’t put pressure on them to achieve or to better what I achieved, they are new and should work at their own pace and do things their way. Whenever they need help am only a phone call away and they can also visit me.”
Programmes to look out for this year from Amakhosi include Dreams to Fame, choral competitions and Highlanders’ 90th anniversary celebrations.
The centre will establish an arts academy where students will be taught music, dance, poetry, animation and story writing, among others. Standard