“The gods chose to favour me, and I’m appreciative of that” – Brenda Ngxoli

Brenda Ngxoli
Brenda Ngxoli

At the beginning of 2019, Brenda headed for Joburg after a long hiatus in her hometown Xolobe in Tsomo, Eastern Cape. At the end of 2018 and through December, she debuted as Dambisa on 1Magic’s The River. As the show grew, she was reminded of the bug she thought she’d shaken off.

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“I’ll always be appreciative to the founders of Tshedza Pictures, Phathu Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon, and executive producer of The River, Percy Vilakazi. They coaxed me back, and lamented sentiments that were already repeated on social media,” she says. “The South African audience never forgot about and reminded me that I still had it in me.”

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Leaving her sanctuary after seven years

If you are ready and at peace, the road becomes less bumpy, Brenda says. “I had to be conscious that it was a reintegration into society and urban life. It’s all a journey, but I had to be conscious and ask myself ‘what did I do before, how can I better that, and what did I learn?’”

Speaking on how different life is in the Eastern Cape than Joburg, Brenda doesn’t shy away from pointing out that there are lessons to be learnt from what some may regard as the “slow”’ life. Now back in the city, she hasn’t stopped promoting and encouraging black people to strive towards a sustainable living and life.

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“We need to ‘vuk’uzenzele’ as black people and take our lives into our own hands. We weren’t born to be slaves to the capitalist system. Now, more than ever, COVID-19 is showing us that those veggie gardens aren’t just for the poor, but those in the city too,” she points out. “The virus has shown that the sustainable, green and conscious life, is one that’s important to all South Africans irrespective of colour, earning or background.”

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Winning a SAFTA for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, as Nomonde on iThemba

The actress admits that acknowledgement for the work that she does feels wonderful. In a highly competitive industry with so much talent, an enthusiastic Brenda doesn’t take the win for granted. “I’ve been nominated about nine times, but have only won three, so I know the feeling of not getting the final prize. That makes this win extra sweet and special. The gods chose to favour me, and I’m very appreciative of that.”

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Being a healer

Her journey to becoming a sangoma doesn’t have a beginning or end, she clarifies, as she’s always believed we are all spiritual beings. Throughout her life, she educated herself about the spiritual practices of different religions, and found herself on the path of African spirituality and knowledge. “I wouldn’t say that I’m a guru at all, but I’ve always been interested in mankind – how we’re living, and how we can live our best lives,” she says.

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Brenda has learnt that it doesn’t matter what religion you follow – the biggest religion of life is love. By approaching everything with love, the actress has let go, healed and forgiven. “Without love, nothing can grow. Yes, we’re going to fall and not always understand each other, but there’s one universal language and that’s the language of love.”

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The conversation around African spirituality remains taboo and difficult for some, but she says it’s about surrendering into our own existence. “The African child needs to know that they are enough – your skin; your blood already tells the history and knowledge that it embedded in you. All you have to do is surrender into it,” she says.

“Don’t listen to outside voices because even though someone can write ‘this is what it’s like to be African’, you need to surrender and take the journey yourself,” she concludes.