Thembi Ngwabi’s journey

Langalakhe Mabena

On 2 December, the arts industry was robbed of a strong pillar, a mother and sister to many, as veteran actress, Thembi Ngwabi, who was wife to the late arts doyen Cont Mhlanga died in hospital after a long illness.

Her death comes barely a year as after her husband died on 1 August 2022.

The two love birds have joined each other, at an unknown place, with the hope that they are rejoicing in their union.

Gogo Ngwabi, as she was christened after receiving the call of being a rain making dancer (iwosana), leaves behind a trail of artistic success which culminated in her directing stage plays and films and also featuring in films with a global appeal.

The Mhlanga family is still deliberating on funeral arrangements and details will be announced in due course.

As a way of celebrating her life, contribution and commitment in the arts industry, B-Metro compiled this profile in honour of Gogo Ngwabi, a dominant and resilient woman in arts.

Born Thembekile Ngwabi, affectionately known as Thembi or Gogo, she joined Amakhosi Theatre Productions in 1989. She was an actress, bassist and a theatre trainer.

Her first professional theatre production was Nansi le Ndoda written by the late Cont Mhlanga and directed by Styx Mhlanga. She played Nozizwe.

The play featured Mandla Moyo, Thulani Mbambo, Nhlalo Sibanda, the late Raymond “Big Ray” Kasawaya, Chimbali Fanuel Ngwenya and Tinashe Makoni.

She proved to be a versatile actress as she was promoted to the seniors in 1993 where she acted in productions like Stitsha, Jazzman, Hoyaya Ho, Yebo Africa, Screams and Tears, Don’t- Ungaqali, Makanya and The Members, plays which were all produced by Amakhosi.

She acted with the likes of Alois Moyo, Pedzisai Sithole, Joyce Mpofu, the late Princess Dlamini, Taurai Muswere, Fortune Ruzungunde, Simbarashe Mugadza, Enisia Mashusha, Loveness Wesa, Lewis Ndlovu and many more.

As a dancer, she was also part of the project Africa ‘95, a project featuring 48 dancers across Africa including our own Tongesai Gumbo and Kasimiro from Mozambique.

She also acted in a number of Rooftop productions like Pregnant With Emotions where she acted with the likes of the late Chiwoniso Maraire, the late Walter Mparutsa, Mandla Moyo, Chirikure Chirikure and Daves Guzha, The Good President produced by Daves Guzha.

She acted in Styx Mhlanga’s Keep in Touch. She also acted in Raisedon Baya’s production Witnesses and Victims.

She was the Bass guitarist for the all-female band Amakhosikazi which had the likes of Edith “Mama Bass” We Utonga and Priscilla Sithole.

She was the backing vocalist of the late Edwin Hama when he relocated to Bulawayo.

She was part of the Township Orchestra where she worked with the likes of the late Handsome Mabhiza, Allen Mhlanga and the late Mike Bosco.

She acted in the films Lamuhla Layizolo and uNoma Ka Mafu by Thoko Zulu.

She took a five-year sabbatical from the art scene to pursue a spiritual journey from 2007 till 2012.

In 2013 she announced her return by directing a musical production Inyelane which was choreographed by South African choreographer Sabelo Ngema and it featured Iyasa.

The late singer is the founder of the group Umchilo Wamakhosikazi Ensemble.

She was married to the late arts doyen Cont Mhlanga and they have a daughter together.

Gogo Ngwabi will be buried at Umvutsha Park Cemetery on 8 December.

May her soul rest in eternal peace.
l Extra material by Thulani Mbambo

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