Legendary entertainer Thembi Mtshali-Jones is bright-eyed and bushy tailed as she celebrates her Joburg Theatre Walk of Fame recognition, and her Durban University of Technology honorary doctorate, both in less than a week.
The Imbewu: The Seed actress, known as the feisty grandma MaNdlovu on the daily drama, was doublyacknowledged for her consistent contribution to the entertainment industry, both as a musician and an actress.
Mtshali-Jones shares the walk of fame with the likes of Hugh Masekela, John Kani, Trevor Noah and Desmond Dube, among others.
“I feel blessed beyond measure because this means that the whole country has been watching my work for ages, and they felt that I needed to know that I am contributing positively in the entertainment industry, and honour me while I’m still alive to smell the flowers.
“Joburg Theatre was a surprise because I was invited to attend the 60th anniversary of the theatre, and the DUT surprised me with a special reception and an after party attended by professionals, my family, close friends and colleagues who all sang for me at some point.
“Chancellor Nkululeko Nyembezi said this was the first in their history. I cannot begin to describe the excitement I am feeling,” said Mtshali-Jones.
The Bab Mnumzane hit-maker said she started her career out of desperation, and these moments make her realise that some forced choices are worth it.
She said she failed and dropped out of nursing training due to an unplanned pregnancy in 1969, when she was barely 20, and had to find the means to support herself and her baby.
She became a domestic worker in Durban while also pursuing a career in music.
Mtshali-Jones described those days as hectic as she remembers that she had to sleep in the toilets because her mother would lock her out of the house for returning home late after shows.
She first bagged a singing gig on Mabatha in 1972, but says the key to her success was singing on the musical Ipi Ntombi, which introduced her to international stages.
“These honours take me back to the Sgudi ‘Snaysi days where I played Thoko between 1986 and 1992.
“There were only two households with a television on my street in KwaMashu. The whole street would gather at these two houses and watch the CCV channel, now SABC2, and celebrate me as one of their own.
“They knew my situation, so they felt that I should be celebrated because I went through all odds as a black female trying to be an entertainer.
“At that time black families felt they were unworthy. Today, I am celebrated by the whole country, recognising all my work from the beginning of my career,” she said.
The muso said she got to sing again in public on Wednesday during her special event after a long time, but she was not planning to return to the studio to create more music.
She said the country had massive music talent among the youth that should be put under the spotlight.
“Can we celebrate our young ones so that they can also be on these stages being honoured in future? They need our support, and they need the recognition from all of us,” she said.
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