The Case for not Lower’s Xolisa

2017-09-14 06:01
Lower caseLunga Adam

Lower caseLunga Adam

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When I arranged for an interview with budding actor Nkumbulo Magqabi- who was featured in the August 24 instalment of this series of articles- guess who he arrived with at the aptly named Beautiful Gate; Xolisa Goba.

I have learnt many a lesson in my young life, but none as profound as when the chance meeting with Xolisa brings home the consequences of my self-prescribed limitations.

Why not. For although Xolisa is not from Lower Crossroads but Khayelitsha, his narrative had so much resonance.

I had planned to pen these articles around ‘do-gooders’ from my Kasi, but on listening to Xolani’s story, I shuddered at the thought of my own naivety. As we spoke, it hit me that, yes, he might be from Khayelitsha, but in him, we see ourselves.

Truth be told, these two ‘locations’ are no more than a walking distance from each other, if you navigate certain paths, but the challenges are inter related, so to say.

Scarcity of jobs. Poverty. Substance abuse. Teenage pregnancy. Its even more than the so-called ‘triple challenge’ that our politicians tend to allude to whenever they mount the dais.

The outside wall of of Beautiful Gate bears the artwork of a once-exquisite but now fading mural with the inscription: “In honour of this community, where hope, love and safety are here yet sometimes seem far away, may this mural be a reminder to you that hope is closer than the moon, love closer than your own skin and safety closer than the ground you stand on.” A masterpiece!

So it is that from the upheavals that stared Xolisa in the face, and a great failure with a capital F threatening our mortal existance, we are able to believe in the triumph that is our future.

Xolisa was born 38 years ago in Ibika Village in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, to a teenage mother. His father was largerly absent in his life.

Growing up, he always had an ear for stories, although he also always felt the tales were incomplete, and telling to his audience, would close the gaps and ‘complete’ the story by heart.

“I believe that I was born for acting because, when someone would tell me a story, I always found it incomplete. I always felt I should have been there so I could tell the story better.

Coming down to Cape Town offered him somewhat of a ‘breather’, for his spirit was unsettled until he could find a casting agency.

“I started by searching for acting agencies in Cape Town via Google. I’d then phone the agencies and send them my photos. Some would call looking mostly for extras, until I found one capable of sending me for auditions.”

His first big break came via a local movie called Unosala, where he played the role of one of a drug lord’s henchmen. He says the compelling story centred around young Zolile, who lacked guidance, but for his elder brother, who led him astray and drunkard for a grandmother.

“Zolile makes the wrong decisions just to prove himself worthy of being called a man. He doesn’t realise that life demands patience to triumph in adversity,” he offers.

In another local drama called Icala Lami, Xolile was cast as Detective Qhakuza. Icala Lami is a drama about a woman named Pretty, who is released from prison after being falsely accused of murder. Pretty’s only daughter Lihle would have nothing to do with her after her stint behind bars, albeit she possesses all her mother’s traits; beauty, charm and a seductive nature.

Xolisa went on to star in Isikizi, a much loved Xhosa drama.

In Isikizi he played a police commander. Isikizi follows the tragic story of an honourable, but impulsive young man who runs away from his hometown in a desperate attempt to escape a dreadful prophecy.

Xolisa also featured in Ukukhanya, where he was cast as X, a criminal who later changes his ways.

On the international front, he was part of the supporting cast on Blood Drive.

Xolisa has had a long journey from the belly of the beast of poverty to where he is now.

When he turned five, he left Butterworth and was carted off to a grandmother in Willowvale, ku Gatyana, along with five other cousins.

Nothing beats the affection of dear granny, except that poverty was all around, for all intents and purposes.

Indeed, hope is what kept Xolisa going in the darkest of times as uncertainty ruled over all.

“On the occasions that no money had come through, we felt the pinch. You’d be sent to the neighbour with a bowl in hand, to ask for mealie meal.

This was Xolisa’s way of life for a number of years. In preparation for his coming of age, he decided to do piece jobs – first as a gardener, then as a butcher’s assistant.

I was not happy and it was very cold in the butchery, so I quit. I always encourage people to do what they love because even if the money is not good, at least you have that drive. When you leave home in the morning, you are not grumpy.”

He always dream of appearing on TV though. “I’m that kind of person who likes to push myself to see how far I can go,” he adds. He says it saddens him to see the negative effect brought on by drugs, while he also believes that extending good gestures among each other would go a long way in giving our communities a more humane face. “We must be good examples to our children and show ubuntu at all times. I have seen instances where someone comes across a neighbour or friend’s child crying because of hunger and the child’s parent is somewhere in a shebeen. He will then give the child something to eat. Hooray! But then spoil the act of kindness by lashing out at the kid, ‘Ina, yitya, uyawa lambile. Nankuya utatakho ulibele kukunxila phaya.’ What are you planting in that child?”

Dispelling the notion that actors often die poor because they do not take care of their finances, he says the general public tends to have the wrong perception of the industry. He admits, though, that his passion for being a thespian, not money, drives him. He explains thus, “People see you on TV and think you have a lot of money. They do not know that you do a job this month and then get paid. But the money only lands in your bank account after, say, two months because there’s a process that needs to be followed. All the while waiting for the money, people see your face on TV because the drama series is playing, but then you haven’t got a gig. You still have bills waiting to be paid. You spend six months without getting any gigs. People don’t know about those things, but are quick to judge.”

The soft-spoken lad says the attention he attracts for being a more recognisable face can both be “good” and “irritating”. Why, I curiously quiz.

“For example, an obese person does not like to be called ‘Sdudla’. You play Mabhuti on Isikizi and all of a sudden you are walking on the street and people scream, ‘Mabhuti! Mabhuti!’ But on the other side it means at least your work is being recognised. You are inspiring the young ones. It says to them that you don’t have to be from Constantia in order to appear on TV. You could be from Harare. The community is like your home because you live among those people, and so when you get support from them, it motivates you to do more.”

Here’s to a talented actor who’s made me realise that it is, after all, not merely Lower Case, but Our Case!


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