When times were tough for Zikhona Bali – 'My grandmothers prayers were my fuel and drive'

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DiepCity actress Zikhona Bali.
DiepCity actress Zikhona Bali.

There was a period where it seemed the odds were against her. She was not getting any work, no matter how many auditions she went to. 

This is why she's so grateful for the mercies she sees in her life.

DiepCity actress Zikhona Bali says not getting any work was hard but her grandmother’s prayers were the well of faith, keeping her together especially when she had to go to auditions.


“My grandmother would pray about it. She is my fuel, my drive because when it is dark in the industry, it is really dark,” she says.

“I am very grateful and blessed to be in this position,” Zikhona says.

“We forget to be grateful with all our busyness. With people ‘chasing bags’, we forget to take a moment and be grateful.”

She plays the character of Asanda in the Mzansi Magic's telenovela. She might look like a harmless church-devotee but Zikhona says Asanda is not as clueless as she looks.

“It is going to go down. Mam’fundisi (pastor’s wife) they think she is all holy, but she has a lot of layers,” she says.

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This is not her first big role. She was Londi in the drama series Is’thunzi, where she starred with Thuso Mbedu.

Londi was a character so memorable that she was got a SAFTA nomination for the Best Supporting Actress for her stellar performance in 2019.

As a performer, Zikhona says she never wants people to see Londi in Asanda. That is why she has to study how she can make her different.


“When the opportunity came along, I wanted to go all the way.

“From the body language and facial expressions to how her beret and glasses are positioned in a particular way,” the Eastern Cape born actress says.

Contrary to what some might believe, being an actress is a lot of work, she tells us.

“We spend about 12 hours on set. So, maybe it is about 15 hours of work a day because you also have to prepare, reading your lines and thinking about delivery.

“The idea that it is easy, there is a lot of money and you will be famous or anyone can do it is all false. There is a lot of work that goes into it, a lot. And not only from actors but the production team,” she explains.

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Despite all the challenges that come with being in such an industry, Zikhona would not trade it for anything else. “For me it is the love of it that keeps me going. It is a gift I don’t take for granted. It is a gift I have had to enhance and be kind to myself in the process,” she adds.


Her talents are certainly being noticed. She drew praise for her work in Lakutshonilanga. 

“I want to take this moment to appreciate this powerhouse of a woman I had the incredible pleasure to work with for our film Lakutshonilanga.

"On set, the crew and I were blown away by Zikhona’s incredible ability to command the character and the screen. Her presence on camera is subtle, but powerful. It was such an honour to bear witness to an actress who is remarkably in command of her craft. Her immense talent, hard work and dedication are inspiring,” Filmaker Phumi Morare posted on Instagram after Lakutshonilanga was shortlisted for the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) (Los Angeles).

The film, based on a true story of a woman living in the Apartheid era, was shot just before the pandemic hit in 2020 and it has not shown in the country.

“The story is based on Phumi’s mother. For me it was the first time that I play someone who is a reference. She showed me pictures of her mother and went back to my grandmother because she also lived in that Apartheid era. It is a huge responsibility for one. Our past is still valid and important to portray,” Zikhona says. 

Zikhona starred alongside the Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker in the movie The Forgiven, based on Archbishop Tutu’s role as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is trusting God for more feature films in the near future.

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