The Case for Lower’s Nkumbulo

2017-08-24 06:01
lower caselunga adam

lower caselunga adam

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Nkumbulo Magqabi, might be all too familiar to the viewers of Dstv, but what they would not know is that behind his bubbly persona is a lad who knows all too well the struggle of rising above one’s circumstances.

Hi is a child of Lower Crossroads.

It was a cliched existence growing up; indigent family, with the spectre of going to bed on an empty stomach being part of the mix. Poverty does not happen in isolation in black lives.

“I had such a challenging childhood, but I ended up embracing the person that I was ... I know they say there’s no way to forget the pain of the past, but I have forgotten so much about mine because I used my tough upbringing as a step ladder to success.”

Simba, as he is affectionately addressed, was brought up by a single mother, his father having passed on earlier in his life.

She raised them eking out a living selling offal.

Some days were good, and others bad, he reminisces of the heartache of knowing that the cycle of poverty would play itself out again; being hungry while starring at a pail full of unsold innards. An oxymoron of sorts.

“Sometimes a half loaf was all that was there for supper, which we all had to share among us. From Grade 8 up until I matriculated, not even once was I able to afford a textbook.”

After reaching adolescence, he knew he had to do something to change the status quo at home, although he was still at high school at the time.

He was in Grade 10, in 2004, when he started selling fruit and veg on the trains.

Later, he found a job as a construction worker and, by night, sweated it out at a bakery. Still, he had to prepare for a day behind the desk, after burning the midnight oil, so to speak.

This took its toil, though: “There were times I slept through an entire exam,”.

In 2010, Simba,32, decided to do something about his long-held dream of becoming an actor.

He joined acting groups in the community and, within three weeks, opportunity came knocking.

“Once, we got a visit from a filming group. They chose me and a couple of others, and I started working with them. We would do small projects at places like the Baxter Theatre and that’s where I managed to meet new people all the time.

Besides being a budding actor, he has also been featured in several music videos, such that of Mary-Jane Matsolo for her song Ndixakiwe.

He has also acted several movies, including Brother’s Heart, where he featured as the lead actor called Lunga. Others are Salvation Street, portraying the character of a feared gangster, Unosala, Icala Lam,Ukukhanya and Isikizi, Seasons 1 and 2. In the latter, he played the character of Mabhuti.

Simba is also making inroads in the international market, playing as an extra in a film called The Maze Runner.

He says the treatment of actors here and overseas has startling differences.

“I don’t like measuring my success or abilities against those of my local counterparts. I strive for international standards. There, they’ve got skills or strategies that we are yet to delve into. I don’t know if it’s a case of lacking resources or certain methods. They have what they call method acting, where someone is required to go and stay somewhere for a while and study a certain character.”

But he is quick to add that he has no preference when it comes to the character he portrays.

“I enjoying playing this character that is Nkumbulo because whatever character I play, it comes straight from me. That’s me, portraying what I see outside. My preference for a character is just being me.”

I ask him about exploitation in the industry, what with many veteran actors dying as paupers.

He admits it is prevalent locally: “It happens. But we are doing this(acting) because we love it. When you are on set, you give your all. Your boss does not care if you get hurt, as long as the project goes according to the script, as it were.

There are also not many acting jobs around, hence they will give you snayi chweba(miserly). I won’t say much, but my advice to anyone wanting to get into the industry is, if you go in, go in without blinkers. Explore all aspects of the industry. Open up a business on the side.”

Simba has a very lively character. I put it to him he must revel in the attention he gets when walking the streets of Lower Crossroads, and he agrees.

“It’s a great feeling. There are two kinds of people you entertain – the young and the old. The kids get excited when they see you. The response you get from their parents is even more amazing. You grow up in front of them and they regard you as a normal boy from next door. Next thing, they see you on TV, and all of a sudden you’re like an icon to them. You need to embrace the feedback. It’s not about wanting to be famous. I do this for the love of it.”

No doubt many youngsters from the ‘ghetto’ would like to follow in his footsteps, but is the ground fertile? Is there space for them to prosper and realise their dreams coming from the townships?

At this point, Nkumbulo’s bright smile is replaced by a frown, as he believes that government should shoulder the blame for lack of development in previously disadvantaged areas.

“Developing our areas is not just about building us houses and big yards so that we feel safe. It’s about developing the individual because if the individual is not developed, then he or she will break down that wall.

This lack of development has resulted in social anomalies such as teenage pregnancy.

He adds, “We also have sport facilities, but no services, and I feel this is done deliberately to paint a rosy picture of our townships. These facilities are white elephants. There bis only soccer bin our schools.

Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise, he concedes; “We are so ignorant – you can see what’s wrong and right, yet you go on and do the wrong thing. There is no ubuntu, no togetherness, and that is why crime thrives. If we stay in the same community and you see my child is hungry, you give him or her a slice of bread. It does not matter if we are enemies because the child is innocent. We need to hold hands, solve each other’s problems, push each other and walk this path together.”

He has a friend in Xolisa Goba, who says: “I’ve worked with Simba on so many projects. If I’m going to do a scene with him, we first discuss it. If I see his performance is not the one I’m used to, we’ll sit down and I’ll ask him, “What’s happening”?

I know how serious he is about this and I know he never wants to deliver a performance that is below par.

So, will Simba move to Jo’burg- seemingly an actor’s Mecca- any time soon?

He retorts with an emphatic “No, no, no. Cape Town is growing now...”. As they say in Xhosa: Ntinga ntaka ndini


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