MOVIES will make you famous; television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good,” American actor, singer and theatre director Terrence Mann, once said.
Cont Mhlanga who died on Monday morning at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) at the age of 64, made a name for himself in theatre, television and movies. As a writer, actor, director or producer, theatre made him good, movies made him famous and television almost made him rich.
Mhlanga, who succumbed to pneumonia after being admitted for 10 days, was born Continueloving Mdladla Mhlanga on March 16 in 1958 at Fatima Mission in Lupane.
His parents Dickson Mbikwa and Sarah Danile would have never imagined that their son would make a name for himself in movies, television, theatre, music, radio, culture, politics and history.
Mhlanga established Amakhosi Theatre in 1981 and produced the largest stock of successful stage actors, playwrights and directors. His passion started as a youth karate club, Dragons, in 1979 and turned into Amakhosi Theatre two years later.
In 1995 Amakhosi established the country’s first privately-owned cultural centre located within the boundaries of Makokoba — Township Square Cultural Centre.
Mhlanga wrote more than 20 plays among them The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs, The Members and Vikela. He also has three books to his name and some of his plays like Nansi Lendoda have in the past been selected as set books in high schools.
He also adapted the popular play Stitsha into a TV series and produced Amakorokoza and Sinjalo for ZBC.
On the big screen he starred as Mtutureli Niekwu in an anti-apartheid movie A World Apart which was released in 1988.
He was the founding vice-chairperson of Fairtalk Communications, the parent company of Skyz Metro, Breeze FM and KeYona TV.
On the music side, Mhlanga produced and recorded a number of musicians and created the first all-women band, Amakhosikazi.
The band members all had to be trained to play different instruments in a project that was meant to empower women who are usually only backing vocalists.
Said Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa: “Cont Mhlanga knew the value of the arts to humanity, nation building and civilisation.
“He used the arts to break every form of barrier be it creed, tribe, colour, religion, gender or racial.
“Arts are the thread that knits together the soul of humanity in time from one generation to another. Concurrently in space across regions and continents.”
Without doubt, Cont Mhlanga is an arts hero who touched the lives of many. He trained, groomed and created stars. Amakhosi Theatre, Township Square Cultural Centre, Skyz Metro, Breeze FM and KeYona TV are a legacy, a heritage Mhlanga leaves behind.
We call on the arts sector to rise and lead us in celebrating the life of this giant that will never be forgotten.
The godfather of township theatre in Zimbabwe has been cast in the greatest and final production to be staged in the heavenly theatre.