News Brief

Veteran South African Actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones Will Receive the 'Living Legends' Award

The award will be presented to her at the 2019 National Theater Festival in North Carolina this week.

Thembi Mtshali-Jones is a South African actress, playwright and singer whose near five-decade long career has seen her grace both local and international stages. From particularly humble beginnings to acting alongside some of the world's most talented actors and actresses, Mtshali-Jones is undeniably deserving of the "Living Legends" Award she will be receiving abroad at the National Theater Festival in North Carolina this week. The award recognizes her lifelong contribution to the performing arts.


The South African actress, now 70, started off as a domestic worker in the city of Durban while she tried to secure any acting gigs that came her way. In 1972, the equally legendary South African poet, Gcina Mhlophe, introduced Mtshali-Jones to the industry. Since then, she's become a household name and has gone on to perform in New York with the cast of Ipi Ntombi, starred in the local television series Stokvel, M-Net's soccer drama League of Glory, local drama series Scandal! and The Queen, among several others.

Back in 2009 and 2015, Mtshali-Jones received the Lifetime Achievement Award which was presented by the City of Durban and the Arts and Culture Trust respectively.

Speaking about the award she will be receiving soon, Mtshali-Jones said that, "Looking back at the work that I have done to date and receiving these coveted awards, they all point to the longevity I have achieved in my career and are signs of God's breath of life on my journey in this business." She went on to add that, "It is really about how far you can go and how far you can take your talent, and I am therefore proof that you can take it as far as you want to."

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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