Sophie Mgcina

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Sophie Mgcina (1938-2005). Filmmaker, musician, teacher and award-winning actress.

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

As a performer Sophie Mgcina's stage credits include "Petal" in the London production of the seminal jazz opera King Kong, Mama Belle in Phiri, and roles in There's No Sugar Left, The Game, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (as Ma Rainey), Sell-Out! The Musical and The Lion and the Lamb.

She has contributed to several productions as composer, musical director and vocal coach. Her crowning achievement in this regard was The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena, the play adapted from Elsa Joubert's famed book Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, first staged in English at the Market Theatre and restaged in New York in which she played two leading roles and she composed and directed the music. The production went to the Edinburgh Festival which was followed by a world tour in 1984. In New York, Mgcina was honoured with an Obie Award for best achievement, and was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for best supporting actress.

Mgcina also wrote music for Dingaka, one of the first South African films to achieve international recognition, and various other foreign and local radio, television and theatre productions.

She participated in several television productions and films, including A Dry White Season, Cry Freedom and Amandla.

She was a teacher at the Federated Union of Black Artists Academy, (FUBA) and was appointed creative director and head of the Department of Music and Voice in 1986.

In 1994 she was given the task of establishing the National School for the Performing Arts at Dorkay House.

Awards, etc.

She was nominated Vita Award (Gauteng region, award year 1997) as best supporting actress for her role in The Game.

In 2005, shortly before her death, she received ACT Lifetime Achievement Award and President Thabo Mbeki bestowed on her the Order of Ikhamanga (silver), the highest form of recognition for excellence in the fields of arts, culture and sport.

A prize involving the opportunity to present a work on the stage of the Market Theatre was named in her honour (the Sophie Mgcina Award} and for the first three years (2014-2016) was hosted by the Naledi Awards.


Material held by NELM.

Tribute written by Mojalefa Mashego, The Star, 6 December 2005.

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