Simon Sabela

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Simon Sabela (1932-1993). Actor, dancer, director and choreographer.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He appeared on stage in the musical Sikhalo in 1966.

He had a role in the film Katrina (1969).

Performed in Black Cat, Ngwanaka and Tigers Don't Cry. Directed U-Deliwe, Inkedama, Black Cat, Ngwanaka, The Boxer and The Eagle.

Report in Natal Witness, 7 July 2008: Sabela was both an actor and director. From the early sixties he was seen in several international feature films such as Diamonds are Dangerous (1961) and Death Drums Along the River (1963). a version of Edgar Wallace's Sanders of the River in which he played the role of Bosambo that had been taken by Paul Robeson in the 1935 version.

Sabela then played in Zulu (1964) and later its follow up, Zulu Dawn (1979), in which he featured in the central role of King Cetshwayo kaMpande. His other credits included Gold (1974), e'Lollipop (1976) and Shout at the Devil (1976). He also starred in the television series Shaka Zulu and John Ross - An African Adventure.

As a director, Sabela worked for Heyns Films, one of the key studios making films for black audiences. Sabela was apparently unaware that the studio was receiving government funding from the Department of Information to make films reflecting and endorsing apartheid. Sabela first directed uDeliwe (1975) for Heyns Films, a production house that made a further 13 films for black audiences before its exposure in the Info Scandal of the late seventies as one of the Department of Information's front companies. uDeliwe was based on a radio soap and Sabela also took the male lead in the film version, which tells the story of a young Zulu woman who goes to Johannesburg, regrets it and finally returns home.

After uDeliwe, Sabela directed Inkedama (1975) about a young man's struggle to make a success of his life. In 1976, he directed iKati Elimnyana (literally: the black cat, but also colloquially: a very dark person), in which he plays the main character, Lefty Ndaba, a businessman whose shady deals finally catch up with him.

In his later career, Sabela appeared in what Maingard describes as "the most significant anti-apartheid fiction film to emerge prior to the elections in 1994", Mapantsula (1988). This story of a small-time gangster forced to face the political realities of the day, "made a special impact , because it expressed the social realities of the South African context in a way that fiction fibn nad not done before".

Awards, etc.

The Simon "Mabhunu" Sabela Film and Television Awards [1] was named in honour of the late screen legend Sabela.


SACD 1977/78.

Tribute written by M. Mthethwa, published in Pace, 21(2). 1 June 1993.

Daily News, 15 June 2016.

IMDb [2].

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