Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Correspondent
THE value to one’s success is not about the length of life, but depth of life, and as veteran media personality Shona Ferguson lays to rest today, he goes a free man having paved the way for and created a bright future for players in the African film and television industry.
From Mzansi Magic’s The Queen, Rockville and Unmarried to Netflix series Kings of Jo’Burg, Shona Ferguson alongside his lover, pillar and business partner, Connie, put the black culture on the forefront, giving audiences worldwide, something to relate to. This was a strong powerhouse that definitely changed the game forever as more and more people developed an interest in African film due to their business acumen and productions.
Following the death of Shona who was popularly known as Mr Sho by those close to him, many in the entertainment industry are still reeling. He was popular for his roles as JB on Rockville, Jerry Maake on The Queen, Tyson on Isidingo: The Need and Alex on Scandal!
The creative director, producer, writer and actor succumbed to Covid-19 at a hospital in Johannesburg last Friday leaving a huge void that most are now hoping Connie finds courage to fill.
What made Shona stand out was his resilient attitude in business and general passion for film and TV. He demonstrated a high level of excellence and quality as he led by example, becoming a regular and one of the lead actors in his own productions displaying his amazing acting qualities.
This was a man who also created jobs for many through his Ferguson Films and gave young talent an opportunity to shine.
From tributes from those he worked with, it is clear he had a big heart and his love for his wife whom he was with for 20 years, was an inspiration to many.
Summarising what most people who worked with Mr Sho said, South African actor Vuyolwethu Ngcukuna popular for his role on The Queen as Schumacher said: “you touched and changed many lives. You were one of a kind, a giant full of love and magic.”
Being the power couple they were, Shona and Connie started Ferguson Films in 2010. Prior to that, the Botswana-born actor made television appearances on shows such as Generations and Muvhango.
The growth of Ferguson Films saw them being entrusted with the production of a Netflix series, Kings of Jo’Burg last year. And boy, did they nail it, putting more attention on the African film industry.
Recently, the fast-growing Ferguson Films announced the launch of the Ferguson Film School that was set up to groom aspiring filmmakers. This is what Shona stood for, raising future leaders, uplifting and making others dreams a reality. It is clear he was a person who did not want to rise alone and believed in uplifting others so as to create a strong force.
“Building a sustainable film industry is a constant vision we are working towards. We are committed to raising future film industry leaders and The Ferguson Foundation intends to be the ladder that offers a step up for our communities,” tweeted Shona last month as he announced the setting up of the film school.
As he is laid to rest today, Chronicle Showbiz caught up with a number of Zimbabwean artistes who once mingled with and some who wished to have worked with the media mogul.
Mzansi Magic’s Diep City actor Chrispen Nyathi who once appeared on The Queen and had a rare opportunity to shoot alongside the legend described him as a great man whose legacy will live for times to come. He said he was a person who would boost people’s confidence assuring them that they had what it takes to penetrate the industry.
“I got to work with Shona on one of my first appearances on South African television. I had a feature on The Queen and I worked with them for a week. On my last day of shooting, I had a very short scene with him.
“Before the take, he asked me to say my line and I did so without conviction. He said ‘give me more’ and I said it again with a little more power. He kept on saying I should give him more until he got what he wanted before saying let’s shoot,” recounted Nyathi who is a current favourite on Diep City where he is acting as Pastor Charleston.
Nyathi said the interaction with Shona who acted as Jerry Maake on The Queen was a learning curve as he fine-tuned his art to the international stance needed.
“That to me was a lesson to never let my confidence and/self-esteem drown in the midst of greats as everyone is important in the story. I didn’t know him personally, but I know that we lost a bowl of knowledge. That man had a lot to offer the South African film and television industry especially for people like us that are still trying to prove their worth. However, I know that he left a legacy and he paved a way and one day, we’ll walk on a smooth road, a road that was created in the midst of bushes,” said Nyathi.
Becky Casting Agency director Bekezela “Becky” Dube said the Ferguson Films family should be given thumbs up for uplifting talent from Southern Africa. She said it is such people who created jobs for them.
The casting agent said she adored the love Shona and Connie shared urging Connie to stay strong.
“As a woman, I feel Connie’s pain. This industry is cruel and brutal, it’s meant for strong people with strong support, but now that Connie is left alone, it’s going to be very difficult for her to face it alone. Shona loved her unconditionally and even as she was faced with lots of challenges from envious people who wanted their downfall, she drew strength from her husband,” said Becky.
True to Becky’s words, the Ferguson’s were inseparable and forever sharing hilarious videos of their activities together. They often took time out as a family and shared these moments on social media. From these moments, people got to see Shona’s simplicity and humility, and more of his smile that was hard to see on most productions he featured on especially on The Queen.
Through this footage that was mostly captured by their daughter, Alicia Angel, people watched the couple’s much-adored grandson Ronewa (King Roro) Malema grow and also be introduced into the world of acting. King Roro was featured in the latest installment of Rockville as Shona (JB)’s son Masego. Now, at the age of five, King Roro is already a celebrity.
Cook Off movie director Joe Njagu whose production landed on Netflix last year said he wished to work with such a talented individual.
“Shona represented black success in film which is very hard to achieve in this industry. He and Connie had created an empire. It was inspiring and still is.
“I didn’t have the chance to work with him, but I was looking forward to it very much. We’ve definitely lost a big force in the industry. Rest easy champ,” said Njagu.
Lobola actor and former Big Brother Africa star Munyaradzi Chidzonga who has interests in film production said Shona was a father to him artistically.
“Shona Ferguson was the man to look up to. He inspired me and many others, both on and off the screen. From his business to personal life, he managed to seamlessly navigate the treacherous waters of stardom.
“Although it was not without its difficulties, his example is proof that it can be done. He’ll be sorely missed by the industry. My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, children, and family. May God grant them peace in this trying time,” said Chidzonga.
Indeed, in the industry, Shona and his wife did not have it easy because even after creating jobs for many, they still found themselves playing unpopular from the very same people they would have employed. Last year, they were accused of exploiting actors and found themselves on the receiving end of social media hate after not renewing a couple of their actors’ contracts. However, Shona justified their actions saying it was the nature of storytelling as people get bored at seeing old faces hence they hire new talent which will lead to a character being written out.
From the Chronicle Showbiz team we say go well Mr Sho and thank you for your contribution to African film. TV will never be the same with you. – @mthabisi_mthire.