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Who is Luthuli Dlamini, the Zimbabwean on SA's Generations?

by Luthuli Dlamini
26 Jun 2013 at 15:12hrs | Views
"Acting may be a career, but the performance that counts is the one you give on the stage called life"

As an actor I live my life to portray those of others, but every single role I play requires me to draw from the inside…from my own wealth of life experiences.

Having been born in the late 60's, the first three decades of my life probably determined an inevitable end in showbiz. Yo-yoing between Africa and Europe I lived all the way through the Beatles craze of the UK and the liberation movement of Zimbabwe. In between were many insane, sad, strengthening and comical experiences that would become the informants of the many roles I'd play in my very eventful life.

Under the rearing of a nurse and a teacher who had a love for knowledge beyond average, I grew up always being encouraged to develop a love for reading. This culture went way back in my family tree; right back to the passed down Dlamini adage that stated "Some people fight wars with guns, but those who have the opportunity should always choose to fight with the book".

Realizing early on, that I could bury my nose in a book and completely become immersed in that world, I built up a love for literature- especially plays. I was drawn to how you could take a narrative and visualize it, reenact it and even retell it. So began my days of acting. At the tender age of nine, I landed my first role at the Bulawayo National Theatre. There I had my first debut in The Baobab Tree where I starred as a wise owl and a monkey and that's how I caught the bug for acting. After that, came South Pacific, a lot of Shakespeare and whichever other Eurocentric classics you can think of- this was Rhodesia, after all.

It was only when I reached my teen years that I discovered how really strong the left side of my brain was too. This was through my desire to evolve things, in this case- the performance comfort zone we had fallen into at the Amateur Dramatics Society in Bulawayo. Why were we restaging the history and tradition of other people's stories when we, as Africans had such a rich oral dramatic culture which we lived out every day? The way we expressed ourselves and told our stories began to be something that captured my imagination. Something, which I took upon myself to become the newfound expression of all my re-enactments, recitals and narrations. So it was this which I would import with my exile into the UK. At least this way, I would always have a part of home with me, even though I was so far from Africa.

Surviving flower power, race riots and the hype of punk in Britain meant embracing other Africans of the Diaspora-the Caribbean community that had also settled in London. They seduced me with their music, their culture, their rebellion. What else could a black twenty- something do in a foreign land that provided no positive social platforms for black achievers? The very few that we were exposed to became our icons- Shirley Bassey for being the voice behind James Bond, Sidney Poitier for being a Sir, and Bob Marley for his revolutionary talk. This, among other things, is how I passed time on the recreational side of my life. On the scholastic side, I found that my incarnation did a 360 degree turn as I shifted from budding thespian to more technical and scientific pursuits…the left side of the brain finally coming through full force.

It was at this juncture in the stages of my life that the true turning point occurred. In my final year while I was studying as a medical physics technician, I experienced something which revealed a lot to me. It revived that part of me that had gone ignored for so long through the imagined life I was so good at staging and making my reality. A patient died on the operation table while we were trying to save her… and it took the wind out of me. She was the first and the last, because after that I took off my white jacket and stethoscopes for good and never looked back.

Some can say the penny dropped for me, those less euphemistic can say it was a wakeup call back into real life. A reality robed in a darkness I had managed to protect myself from for so long. Through my ability to co create and take others on an imaginative joyride with me, I'd made myself immune to the pain around me. The suffering that was so massive in my existence as an alien in the UK and my ethnic heritage as a Ndebele in the turmoil filled Zimbabwe, deemed a catch twenty two position. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to escape to, not even with my mind.  My heart had taken over and for once I was feeling. This made me realize how that lady on the operation table had come into my life to make me aware of two things a)how I was not so immune to the ugly world around me and b) my deep interconnectedness to other human beings.

All those shelved memories of that time in Zimbabwe started to come back. Of me and my best mate Oswald planning to be a part of the struggle in whatever way we could. Were we going to be foot soldiers, politicians or pilots? We did not know-but what we did know, was that we had to be a part of the fight for a blood free Zimbabwe. Whether it was white on black or black on black it did not matter, what mattered was securing a brighter future for our children.

The latter years in my home country, differed from the former. Not only because I was not nine years old or staggering from "Woza" after a night of boozing- but because I looked upon my land with different eyes. Eyes that were older, wiser and seen so much more. These eyes were filled with appreciation for my birthright, and an awareness of how we as a people had been so torn apart. Even though I was not in the UK, I felt a familiar coldness- one that was not caused by the merciless weather, but more by an understanding of how much we would still have to do to restore our sense of being.

It is funny how this life works, in the places it chooses to place us or the people it decides to make us collide with along the way. It is funny how everything that happens to us from the time we arrive into this world to the time we leave, is a gently woven plan of us arriving at our chosen purpose.

I may have not made it as a foot soldier or a politician in the end, but I do now realize how everything went full circle in leading me back right where I started. Right here at home, where I was always meant to be. Celebrating other's stories, paying homage to others lives through my god given ability and talent-that to "co create and take others on a joyride into that imaginative space". Be it through the performance I give on a revolving platform or the one I give on the real stage of life -this I know to be what I was chosen to do till my dying days.


'O' Levels: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, English, and Accounting
'A' Levels: Physics, Chemistry, Biology
'H' Tech: Medical Physics and Physiological Measurement.
Diploma: Business Management, Human Resource Mgt, Restaurant Mgt.
Diploma: Performing Arts.
Degree: Coventry University: Manufacturing systems Engineering and Financial


"The Baobab Tree" Bulawayo National Theatre Zimbabwe (Televised for ZBC)
Role: Wise Owl and Chief Chimp.
"South Pacific" Bulawayo National Theatre Zimbabwe (Televised for ZBC)
Role: Sailor; Chorus.
"Dick Whittington" Woolwich Theatre
Role: Fairy Godmother/Father
"2000 BC" Cabaret, Woolwich Theatre
Role: Various and Chorus
"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" UCL Drama School Production
Role: Evil Uncle Mustapha
"Romeo and Juliet" Richmond Theatrical Society London
Role: Benvolio, daggers, rapiers and dance.
"Romeo and Juliet" Ealing Broadway Theatrical Society London
Role: Mercutio, daggers, rapiers and dance.
"River Boat" Ealing Broadway Theatrical Society London
Role: Head Slave, chorus, and dance
"The Rape of the Belt" The Harare Repertory Theatre, Zimbabwe
Role: Hercules, Lead (Best Newcomer Award)
"The Cherry Orchard" Alliance Francais Zimbabwe
Role: Jeremy Birch, student tutor
"Miss Julie" Alliance Francais Zimbabwe
Role: Jean, Lead
"Henry & Charlie" West End Play, developed black character for play about sex and
drugs within aristocratic fraternity in UK.
Role: Leroy, (Principle Character).


"As Good as it Gets" Filmed for director school
Role: Gay neighbour
"Mickey Two Guns" Short Films, developed gangster character for short story set
within West Indian and African community in London
Role: Dexter (Principle Character)
"The Res" Drama, SABC2
Role: Dr. Baloyi (1st Call Basis)
"Scout in Africa" American drama series set in South Africa
Role: Coach
"Justice for All II" Legal drama for SABC
Role: Ebrima shoots wife and himself, after unfavourable court decision.
"Generations" Drama SABC
Role: Customer (single call)
Ned bank Commercial Peter Gird Productions, Cape Town
Role: Aging sculptor (lead)
Pastel Accounting, corporate video
Role: company executive


High-rise Media (Pty) Ltd London
Narration for corporate training video. English accent.
Voice over for sales campaign for introduction of new margarine. Cockney accent.
Voice over for Jamaican Rum. West Indian accent.
Junior Mellow Recording Studios Zimbabwe
Television voice over for Telly Access. English accent.
Sonovision SA
Toyota, radio voice over. English Accent
Astral Studios SA
Waltons Stationary TV commercial


Horse riding, stage fights (daggers and rapiers) Use of hand gun, backing vocals, (2nd
tenor, bass, baritone), some dance. Creative writing, amateur photography. Being a dad.
Play: basketball, rugby, football and tennis.
Acting is a labour of love for me and I am constantly looking for new challenges from
which I can learn and develop as an actor. I will almost always try anything once, as
long as it does not leave me with any lasting scars.

Source - online