Cont Mhlanga: A riddle wrapped up in an enigma

05 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Cont Mhlanga: A riddle wrapped up in an enigma The late Cont Mhlanga

The Chronicle

Sihlangu Dlodlo, Obituary
What can one possibly say about Cont Mdladla Mhlanga, without risking reducing the luminary.

A doyen of the arts whose works spoke to social ills, who critiqued social order and all manner of vices.

A great visionary, he was.

The late Cont Mhlanga

Cont’s works, in particular, its cultural repertoire of representation of political injustice, corruption and malfeasance stand out for its timelessness and relevance.

I first met Cont when I was a toddler growing up in Makokoba, Bulawayo.

Our relationship grew in leaps and bounds. I came to respect and learn everything about the arts from him.

As already stated, writing about Cont Mhlanga is quite difficult, yet interesting because he was such a maverick who, for all good intentions, was a-riddle-wrapped-up-in-an-enigma.

And yet still to many, Cont Mhlanga was a combination of contradictions personified.

How best can I represent, at least, in writing such a great man? Let me reminisce.


We are sitting at St Patrick’s School in Makokoba just before karate training. Cont walks up to us and starts talking Raja Yoga, meditation and spirituality.

At the time, I am still at primary school, so, I cannot fully fathom what he is talking about.

But he is so passionate about whatever it is he is talking about.

My first impression is to ignore him and walk away, but there’s this gluing thing about his eyes and voice; apart from his tenacious character.

So I choose to listen in spite of my young, confused self.

That was my first impression of Cont Mhlanga.

Then as we grew up, I noticed that Cont’s viscous nature was such that he could not talk about anything and not capture his audience.

You didn’t have to agree with him to listen attentively to what he was saying.

The late Cde Robert Mugabe

I recall how even former President, Cde Robert Mugabe, a man that Cont critiqued a lot in his works, still quoted him in one of his speeches.

It was his viscid repertoire of representation, style of communication and engagement that caused people like Dr Sigabade, in his Monday morning tweet aptly described uMdladla as “…a legendary doyen of arts.”

That is how captivating Cont Mhlanga was.

Cont believed in positive and aggressive social change that creates a lasting legacy.

When he stumbled into the world of theatre he set on a calculated mission to make the necessary changes and create a lasting legacy.

Through arts, he was able to create a brand, as a playwright, filmmaker, actor and creative director in the creative and cultural industry.

He believed in the possibility of leaving his Nguboyenja home in a crowded emergency taxi singing Shosholoza with ordinary workers on the one hand, to finding himself sitting in meetings with influential politicians, and sharing a limousine ride with a billionaire on the other hand; all in one day.

Such was the multifaceted life Cont led.

Cont Mdladla Mhlanga, founded Amakhosi Theatre in 1982 after stumbling into a national theatre organisation/theatre workshop at Stanley Hall in Makokoba.

He spent the next four decades of his life persistently recreating and shaping the creative and cultural arts industry landscape nationally and globally.

Skyz Metro FM

Some of the milestones on his journey as a playwright, actor, filmmaker and creative director, in my humble opinion, are the world-acclaimed stage production Stitsha, that creation of purposeful and conscious arts training programmes through Amakhosi Performing Arts Workshop, the establishment of Township Square Cultural Centre, a first of its kind and founding and owning a radio station in the mould of SkyzMetro and finally KeYona TV, a project he died tirelessly working on.

Over and above being an institutional builder, Cont was a loving father who spent the last few years of his life working with his children to keep his dream alive, relevant and working.

He lived a full life and was a lot of things to a lot of people – a published writer, arts doyen, filmmaker, policy formulator, director, businessman, villager and lobbyist par-excellence.

That uMdladla’s Legacy will continue to live on, in time and memory is unquestionable.

That Cont was a great visionary whose works, such as the political satire, Workshop Negative have withstood the test of time is unquestionable.

History will remember Cont Mdladla Mhlanga. Posterity will celebrate and remember his memory. His illustrious contribution will forever immortalitise and engrave this giant on the tablet of time.

Umkhulu lo msebenzi . . . Lala ngokuthula Mdladla, Khebesi, Vuso. Aluhlanga lungehlanga kaMhlanga . . . uyibekile eyakho induku ebandla.

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