Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
REVERED arts guru Cont Mhlanga has called time on his illustrious 36-year career in the arts industry.
Regarded as the pioneer of arts in Zimbabwe, Mhlanga, who founded the cultural centre in 1982, has ventured into agribusiness in his rural home of Lupane. As a result, he will no longer be active in the centre’s administration but has left his capable wife, Thembi Ngwabi, in charge. Ngwabi will be responsible for all administration at the popular centre.
Veteran performing artiste Thulani Mbambo will manage the centre’s television content wing – Amakhosi Digital – while Godwin Phiri has been tasked to manage Skyz Metro FM – a radio station which is yet to be launched.
“It’s been a long time coming as I’ve been in the arts business for donkey years. It’s time to call it quits and relax at my farm,” Mhlanga said.
“Though I won’t be there physically, I’ll be guiding the team in terms of what the vision of Amakhosi is. In other words, I’m now a consultant to Amakhosi,” said Mhlanga.
He said the imminent launch of Skyz Metro FM and Amakhosi Digital had led him to retire as he wants those remaining to be able to run with the projects without him.
“My fear was that if these new projects take off when I’m there, people would excessively rely on me and this would cause a collapse when I would eventually decide to leave. So I found it better for those I felt were capable, to launch without me and run with the concepts for the next 10 years.
“I believe I’ve trained them well and that they’ll succeed because they’ve caught the vision of Amakhosi.”
Mhlanga said he would chip in and act as a mentor and consultant only when necessary, otherwise all his attention is on his five goats for now.
“I’ve five goats that I’m rearing as I’m primarily an expert in agribusiness after my parents spent monies to get me educated in that field. I took up the arts much later in life.”
The arts guru may however be tempted to bounce back as people in his homestead are constantly asking him why he left the arts business.
Mhlanga who wrote more than 20 plays among them The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, and Vikela has three books to his name. He also adapted the popular play Stitsha to a TV series. It featured late Beater Mangethe.
Popularly referred to by many as ‘khulu’, Mhlanga made ZBCtv worth watching back in the days with his ‘Umkhlu lomsebenzi’ productions. He also made Friday’s worth looking forward to in Bulawayo as the cultural centre hosted a ‘Friday Live at Amakhosi’ where live music bands would perform. Alick Macheso and late Tongai Moyo are some of the artistes who performed there.
Competitions such as Dreams to Fame discovered young talent as this was a platform for up-and-coming artistes.
Among those who were nurtured by Mhlanga are Ba Shupi, Sandra Ndebele, Sarah Mpofu, Raisedon Baya and William Nyandoro.