Azwindini ‘reveals several layers’ about himself

As TV actor Gabriel Temudzani bids farewell to a character he played for 23 years in Muvhango, he reveals several layers about himself and beliefs which sometimes clashed with the character he portrayed for years.

Temudzani, who played the iconic role of Chief Azwindini Mukwevho, has left the show. 

As much as everyone is convinced that he acted only in Muvhango, Temudzani also acted in other drama series and movies such as Winnie Mandela, The Tribe, Diamond and Destiny. 

Temudzani, who took on the role of the chief at the age of 20, shares with Sowetan that he shot all his final scenes last month. In the past few weeks, he had been at home thinking about his next move. Being part of Muvhango had been a fulfilling and memorable moment for him. 

Muvhango will always be part of who I am. It has contributed to the person that I am now. The show gave me a chance to put Venda culture and language on the map. Venda people today are proud of themselves because people know about them. We need to be grateful (as Venda people) of a platform like Muvhango. 

“Being part of the show has been phenomenal, eye-opening and fulfilling. Playing Azwindini has taught me a lot about leadership because he was a trendsetter. I have gained a lot from the character.” 

When the 43-year-old actor was first presented with the script of the character, it looked like an uphill for him. The character traits were scary and intimidating. As a young actor, who had never portrayed a massive role before, he knew that the challenge would be to bring Azwindini to life and make him believable to viewers. 

“First, it was a scary situation. It was like we are talking about something that I did not even know its shape or colour. Because of faith and hope, I journeyed with the character, and 23 years later, we are here. Looking back to the journey I travelled, it brought about hope among many Africans. I would love the character to be remembered for the impact he made to the people. I would define Azwindini as a hero because of the impact he has on people. 

“I did not realise that the character was this popular until I announced my departure this week. I always knew people loved Azwindini but not at this level. This past few days I have been overwhelmed by messages from people. Some people say watching Azwindini gave them courage to fight for what is right. I will always miss his spirit of forgiving and tenacity. He was able to forgive anyone no matter what. He always made sure that his family and community came first just like a true leader.”

Temudzani, who is also a businessman and a sports fanatic, explains that he left Muvhango because it was the perfect time to do so. He preferred to leave the show while still at his career peak. 

“SA is alive with possibilities. There are a number of things that I have lined up, but it will be premature for me to talk about them. For now, I want to focus on travelling and advancing my travel agency. I want to focus on my kids and continue to watch Muvhango — who knows, I might go back as a director or producer.” 

Over the years, viewers have watched Azwindini’s life journey from being a chief at a young age to his clashes with elders to marrying his long-time sweetheart, Susan. His journey saw the family running a successful Mukwevho Milling, marrying many wives, some of whom cheated on him. Lately, his chieftainship was under threat, with Mulalo fighting for the throne. 

“I think the lowest moments for Azwindini was when he was challenged for the throne, and for him it imposed a sense of fear as he lost his pride as a leader. The second one will be when he separated with Susan. It was a turning point for him because Susan was his pillar of strength and also supported him.” 

Though in the TV story he is a polygamist, Temudzani does not subscribe to the notion of a man having multiple wives. He grew up in the polygamous environment in Nzhelele, Venda, but he believes in having one partner. Since he portrayed the role of a traditional leader in the show, he holds a view that traditional leaders still have a significant role to play other than administering land. —TimesLive

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