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WATCH: Who will Continue your work?

by Staff reporter
02 Aug 2022 at 06:46hrs | Views
INTABA enkulu idilikile sums up the impact of the death of one of the country's icons of the arts, Cont Mhlanga.

Cont (64) died yesterday morning at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) after being admitted for 10 days.

His family said he succumbed to pneumonia.

He established Amakhosi Theatre in 1981 where a number of artistes who passed through his hands became household names in Zimbabwe.

It started as a youth karate club called Dragons in 1979 and turned into Amakhosi Theatre two years later.

Cont starred as Mtutureli Niekwu in an anti-apartheid movie A World Apart which was released in 1988.

In 1995 Amakhosi established the country's first privately-owned cultural centre located within the boundaries of the townships, now popularly known as the Township Square Cultural Centre.

The legend wrote more than 20 plays among them The Good President, The End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs,

The Members and Vikela. He has three books to his name.

He also adapted the popular play Stitsha into a TV series and it featured the late Beatar Mangethe. He directed Bamqgibela Ephila and Omunye Umngcwabo.

He was the founding vice- chairperson of Fairtalk Communications, the parent company of Skyz Metro, Breeze FM and KeYona TV.

Upon retiring from the arts in 2016, he relocated from Bulawayo to his rural home in Lupane, where he was rearing livestock such as goats.

When news of his death trickled through yesterday morning, many took to social media to mourn the leading playwright.

Yesterday, Amakhosi Township Square was closed in respect of its founder, while mourners are gathered at the family home at 488 Nguboyenja suburb.

Cont's brother, Styx Mhlanga said funeral arrangements are not yet finalised, but he will be buried in his rural home of Lupane.

"People will be gathered at the family home here in Nguboyenja, while we prepare the funeral arrangements.

But what is clear is that there will be a memorial service at Amakhosi Theatre before he is buried at his rural home in Lupane," said Mr Mhlanga.

The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said Cont's death was a blow to the arts sector in Zimbabwe.

"He was an extremely gifted person in the arts and media sector.

This is a man who touched a lot of our people's hearts in this country," said Minister Mutsvangwa.

Born Continueloving Mdladla Mhlanga on March 16, 1958 at Fatima Mission in Lupane to Dickson Mbikwa and Sarah Danile, Cont leaves behind a wife, six children and a grandchild.

He learnt at Shabula and Fatima primary schools. Cont did Forms One and Two at Fatima High School, then Form Three to Form Four at Sobukhazi High School in Bulawayo.

A news crew yesterday visited his homestead in Lupane and found relatives cleaning but could not comment saying all communication was being handled from Bulawayo.

Lupane villagers spoke glowingly of Cont saying despite being a prominent figure he blended easily with the community and never missed cultural events in the area.

They said he was a fountain of knowledge and the community continued to tap from his wisdom.

Villagers said while he had retired from the arts industry, his love for the craft saw him roping in community members in the drama series Esigabeni, which premiered on ZBCtv.

Esigabeni drama cast member Ms Nomsa Ngwenya said Mhlanga imparted skills to them which made them realise that even rural communities can commecialise cultural knowledge.

"He mobilised us as villagers and we acted in a drama called Esigabeni which we never thought we could do as villagers based here.

I was able to buy two cows after the drama was sold. Other cast members also managed to buy several properties to improve themselves to uplift their lives," said Ms Ngwenya.

"He changed our lives.

He made us understand the value of culture and right now I have managed to form an ensemble group named Insingizi Emnyama and we even participated in Chibuku neShamwari competition where we performed well.

His death is a great loss to us considering the role he played to uplift us.

He taught us to market our art and we are benefitting through our knowledge and skills."

Zanu-PF Lupane District Coordinating Committee chairperson Permanent Sibanda said the playwright must be declared a national hero.

"With Cont it's not a matter of lobbying, Cont made himself a national hero during his life, his deeds, his achievements makes him stand up above the rest.

He is an automatic beneficiary of a national hero status.

That status should be preserved solely for people like Cont.

If you look at the artistic value of Mtukudzi (late national hero Oliver) and look at the artistic value of Cont to us, the Ndebele and our culture, no one should lobby, it should be an automatic status given and I'm sure the Government will do that," said Sibanda.

He said he had known the Mhlanga family for a long time and even the homestead that he built confirmed his artistic impression.

Sibanda said creativity came naturally for Cont as witnessed by several accolades and films he created during the course of his career.

"When he retired he came back home, he rebuilt his homestead with the aplomb of an artist.

It was culturally centred, the mind he had, the creativity, the film room, the kitchen, behind the kitchen a small little orchard where he would make original fruit drinks, with a street light leading to his bedroom with a chandelier from uprooted trees facing downwards. It was splendid he was an artistic hero," said Sibanda.

Lupane Business Association chairperson Mr Leonard Moyo said Cont's death came as a shock for most community members.
He said the icon was pro development.

"We are in mourning.

He was a great asset to us and our children.

He had formed several groups for young people where he would teach cultural values. His work was uniting nationally. So his death is a great loss for us," he said.

Mr Moyo said the community was also benefiting from his international connections and he could pool resources that were meant to uplift Lupane.

Cont's friends and contemporaries were devastated.

Fortune Ruzungunde, famed for his role of Folomani in the local drama Sinjalo said he was at a loss for words.

Renowned poet, Albert Nyathi, said he has lost a shoulder to cry on.

"Cont was one person that when I had a problem of any nature, he'll offer me a shoulder to cry on, but right now I no longer have any shoulder to cry on. It is so devastating, it is the darkest day in the arts industry and the country has lost.

"I've no words isistsha esihle asidleli, he was our hero.

If I had the power I would declare him a national hero because he has contributed a lot to the arts industry of our country," said Nyathi.

Veteran theatre director and actor, Memory Kumbota, said he is thankful for the legacy that Cont has left.

"I don't know how to respond.

I know him from way back when I was learning theatre with his brother Styx.

I cannot even start counting what I learnt from Mhlanga and how much his presence was worth my life and for every other artiste," said Kumbota.

Veteran modelling instructor and actress Sarah Mpofu, who starred in the hit soap, Amakorokoza as Tashi, sobbed when asked about Cont's impact on her life.

"I ask, is it the part where the arts fraternity assumes, the role of the fearless legend and shouts cut!?

Not to mark the end of production, but this time to mark the end of an era," said Mpofu, before sobbing.

"To know Cont, was an honour and to be trusted by him was a gift.

Cont was indeed a gift that kept on giving."

Iyasa director, Nkululeko Dube, said Cont was a selfless man who opened doors for many people and transformed the art sector into a recognized industry locally and internationally.

"We have lost a father, a pioneer, a theatre icon and a mentor," Dube said.

Veteran playwright, Daves Guzha who produced many plays with Cont such as The Good President said: "Cont Mhlanga! How does one even begin to process such a colossal loss!"

Bulawayo City Council also mourned Cont in a statement yesterday saying the city had lost a legend and a pioneer.

Bulawayo Minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Judith Ncube said Cont's death shocked her and the arts industry is not complete without him.

"We respect him for the work that he has done, a lot of people benefited from him including school children.

School children would go Amakhosi to learn and researchers would also research from him so his death is a huge loss," she said.

Source - The Chronicle
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