Humble veteran actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones grateful for honorary PhD

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Mama Thembi Mtshali-Jones on being honored with a PhD by DUT.
Mama Thembi Mtshali-Jones on being honored with a PhD by DUT.
Oupa Bopape

Viewers fell in love with her when she played Thoko on the popular comedy show, Sgudi 'Snaysi. And with every role since, she cements her place in their hearts. 

She's considered to be one of the most prolific artists in the country. 

Now she's been honoured with a Phd. 

Mama Thembi Mtshali-Jones will be honoured with a doctorate in visual and performing arts in a virtual graduation ceremony on 16 May by the Durban University of Technology.

She says it is such a great honour and she is very humbled by the university’s thoughtful gesture.

“It is something that I was not expecting. When you are working, you don’t work to be showered with accolades and being honoured, but then people will suddenly recognise what you do and it gives you such an encouragement and the good thing is that people have been receiving what you’ve been throwing, it is not in vain.”

The seasoned and legendary actress says she is preparing for a short series of events to celebrate her big day with her colleagues at work.

Read more | Actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones’ legendary rise to stardom

“The graduations will be virtual because of the Covid-19 regulations. But we are going to record a speech while wearing the gown here at work and then I will parade for my colleagues. I also have to record an acceptance speech and it will be released on Monday the 16th online, it will be on their [DUT] website,” she says excitedly.

Reflecting on her acting career and how the showbiz evolves over time, Mama Thembi says what keeps her going is learning from others as well.

“We have to keep updating ourselves because time changes and the industry changes; everything changes around you, so if you want to keep working all the time, you have to know what is happening around you and you upgrade yourself as an artist,"

“I started this business as a singer, I thought I could sing and then I had to learn how to dance because a lot of the people who came into the media at the time were able to dance, and I couldn’t move a leg; I had to learn that and then later on, I had a strong feeling towards acting and drama, because we did not have drama schools like our kids now so I was learning, I was taking different classes, and every director who was directing me became like my sibling, and all this was a process of upgrading myself.”

She says as much as she has been in her element for a very long time, she is still open to learning from others as well.

“And also, because I work with young people, they become my sisters, as well, as much as I am in their picture and they learn a lot from me, but I still learn from them too because with this technology today, it is easier for them because they grew up with it.”

Read more | Sleeping on the floor, losing funding – what it took for Aviwe to become a mathematical scientist

She says she is going to keep on doing what she is doing and hopes to create work for aspirant actors.

“There is so much talent in this country, and it is amazing. It breaks my heart to see it, especially people who have spent years studying drama and find that there is no work for them. I think it is important for people who are at this stage in life to try to create work and help them as well in their creativity or whatever they are trying to do. So, I will keep doing that and motivating young people.”

Mama Thembi's advice to aspirant actors who look up to her is to remain humble, always. 

“You don’t work alone in this industry, we work with people all the time, so, you need to be able to work with people. Humble yourself, because it doesn’t matter how talented you are, if people can't work with you, it becomes a problem even if you travel the world, it is not just you who is on that stage, you are surrounded by technical, you know the crew. I had to work with them, I had to humble myself, they have to enjoy working with you to make the work successful.”

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