Zoleka Helesi

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Zoleka Helesi (1972-2020) was a theatre administrator and an award-winning actress.

Colloquially known as MaZo


Born Zoleka Caroline Helesi on 26 February 1972 in Mdantsane, a large township between King Williamstown and East London, and in 1998 would go on to study theatre at the Community Arts Project (CAP) in Cape Town. From there she would move on to become a central figure in Western Cape and South African theatre as actress and organiser, eventually joining the Baxter Theatre in 2007.

Tragically, Helesi succumbed to cervical and lung cancer on 11 December 2020, leaving one son, Lazola. She was but 48 years old. S

Contribution to South African Theatre, Film, Media and Performance

At CAP she honed her organisational skills and went on to become the project director of the Iliso Theatre Company in Khayelitsha, and ultimately became the co-founder and co-coordinator of the Baxter Theatre's Zabalaza Theatre Festival (2011-2020)

As an actress she was described by internationally renowned Yaël Farber as a "rare, fierce artist," with "soft burning eyes, a proudly raised chin, and a singing voice that could awaken the spirits", and in the words of Robyn Sassen, "Helesi, as a performer, was endowed with the depth of focus that could take a supporting role in a work and render it with such care, grace and empathy that it became the glue that bound the whole production together."[1].

Her range of roles over the years included seminal roles in such admired works as Brett Bailey's iMumbo Jumbo (1997), The House of the Holy Afro (2004), Lara Foot's Karoo Moose, Yaël Farber's Mies Julie (playing "Christine", 2012), Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade (directed by Jaco Bouwer, 2016),

As a director she was responsible for productions like Memories by Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, Scrooge (2013) and Ambabali Ethu (2015).


Robyn Sassen. 2020. "Cape theatre’s gentle ‘lion’: RIP MaZo". My View by Robyn Sassen and Other Writers: Posted 17 December, 2020[2]

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