My whirlwind new life


The young girl glows with excitement as photographers clamour to take her picture on the red carpet. Dressed in a pretty black cocktail dress with her make-up expertly applied, 14-year-old Khomotso Manyaka looks every bit the movie star. Tonight is the South African premiere of her movie, Life, Above All, and it’s her time to shine.

In just two years her journey to fame has taken her from rural Limpopo to film festivals around the world.

Her rags-to-riches story sounds almost too good to be true. Since being plucked from obscurity in her hometown of Dennilton, Mpumalanga, she’s been travelling around the world, staying in posh hotels and rubbing shoulders with movie stars.

Yet she remains surprisingly grounded. “I’m not a star yet.” Life, Above All sees her taking centre stage as Chanda, a 12-year-old girl who struggles against prejudice in her rural community after her mother dies of Aids. The poignant movie received a 10-minute standing at the Cannes Film Festival last year and earned Khomotso a Golden Horn award for Best Actress in a Feature Film at the recent South Africa Film and Television Awards.

“I’ve always loved acting but I never thought I’d make a career out of it,” she says.

“My mom and dad were really surprised when I landed the role because no one at home knew I could act,” she says. “In fact I didn’t know I could act so I was also surprised.”

Khomotso (then 12) was assigned an acting and vocal coach to help with her preparations and in November 2009 filming began in Mpumalanga.

The most difficult part of her role was speaking in Sepedi, she says. Zulu is her mother tongue and she had to work hard to perfect the dialect.

“I had no problems memorising my lines because I’ve always been very clever at school,” she says proudly.

Her talent was quickly rewarded. After teachers at the National School of the Arts (NSA) in Johannesburg had a sneak preview of the movie they immediately offered her a scholarship.

“I’m learning about drama which is really nice – we get to do a lot of plays and voice training,” says Khomotso, who is in Grade 9.

“I just want to work hard and succeed in my career,” she says. “I’m going to do my best and continue to make my family proud.”

Lees die volledige artikel in die Huisgenoot van 24 Maart 2011

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