Gcina Mhlophe (1958-) is a South African actress, writer, educationist and charismatic storyteller. (Her name is sometimes wrongly spelled "Gcina Mhlope")
Raised in the Transkei, she learnt storytelling from her grandmother. She later obtained informal and formal training as actress, journalist and filmmaker.
The theatre-maker and actress
She went to Johannesburg in the early 1980s and worked with Maishe Maponya and Barney Simon, at the Market Theatre, helping to create and performing in Umongikazi: The Nurse (1983) Black Dog/Inj’emnyana (1984) Born in the RSA which opened at Upstairs at the Market in August 1985 before moving to the main theatre (for which she received an Obie Award). At one time she was a Resident Director of the Market Theatre.
As a playwright she wrote and performed Have You Seen Zandile?. It also starred Thembi Mtshali and was directed by Maralin Vanrenen at the Laager in February 1986, winning the Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Festival with the play in 1987. She adapted The Good Woman of Sharkville, together with Janet Suzman who also directed this play at the Market Theatre in July 1996.
As film actress she appeared in the film A Place of Weeping (19**).
A much sought after performer of poems, stories and and songs, she has been immensely influential in the re-establishment of the oral storytelling tradition in South Africa as a significant art form. Since 1988, she has been conducting storytelling workshops in libraries, schools, and teacher training colleges. Between 1989 and 1990 she organized two national storytelling festivals with the Market Theatre.
In 1991 she established the Zanendaba Institute of Storytelling in Africa in Braamfontein Johannesburg. (Zanendaba is a Zulu word meaning "come with the news" or "tell me a story.") She initially worked with two institutions, the Market Theatre and READ, a national literacy organization for which she was the coordinator of storytelling programs and festivals, and held storytelling performances in different parts of the country (South Africa) , inter alia for in raising awareness about endangered animals. Her storytelling performances and workshops have also travelled to countries like France, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, India and the Phillipines.
In 2001 she founded the Nozincwadi Literacy Campaign and started touring rural areas in South Africa promoting the importance of reading and distributing school library boxes. Since 2008 htis has included an annual book festival, called the Nozincwadi Books and Story Festival. Run under the auspices of her Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust, it aims to encourage young people to start creating their own stories and their own books, so they can have a say in the future of writing and reading in this country. A key feature of the project, alongside Mhlophe's storytelling workshops, is the distribution of books within communities that otherwise would have no access to reading materials.
Mhlophe has published three children's books, three plays, and numerous stories and poems. One of her books, The Snake with Seven Heads, has been translated into five African languages, and the English edition has been placed in all school libraries nationwide. Her autobiographical play, Have You Seen Zandile? is prescribed work at many universities in South Africa. She has also written stories and music for storytelling shows and animated films.
Awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Open University, London, in 20**.
Tucker, 1997. pp 206, 442.
Women Marching Into the 21st Century: Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo
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