Thembi Nyandeni (63) is popular for the role of gun- toting Mkabayi, the matriarch of the Zungu family, in the telenovela Isibaya. In the entertainment industry for 43 years, she embodies every role so much that being a multiple award-winning actress does not come as a surprise.
Thembi lights up when she talks about her childhood. This is because it was filled with singing and dancing, the first introduction to her successful career. Although born in Newcastle in KwaZulu- Natal, she was raised in Soweto. She grew up in a big family as one of eight children. Her parents were in the taxi business, and she would regularly help them. “I used to count the money that the drivers made at the end of the day and give it to my father, Petros Nyandeni,” she recalls. A typical girl she grew up as, it was written in the stars even back then that she would be well known. Entertaining her family, friends and community was her passion after all.
BORN TO ENTERTAIN
As a child, Thembi fell in love with the arts and was driven by passion to work towards her dreams. It is through these characteristics that she is successful in her career, and has received numerous accolades. “My mother says that I was already an entertainer at the age of two. So, you could say that I’ve been an entertainer all my life,” she says. At school she was hard to miss because she was always participating in some play, both singing and dancing. But, she left school in Grade 11. “I was born during the apartheid era, and being black was hard. I remember how bored I often was in class because we were taught in Afrikaans. I did not enjoy my schooling years.” This was also exacerbated by the fact that teachers often scolded her for the type of music she and her friends listened to. Certain types of music were banned because the government believed them to be a conspiracy by the opposition. Because she is strong- willed, she also didn’t want to be told what to do. This, coupled with her aspirations of becoming a singer and dancer, pushed her to leave school. “I couldn’t take the rules and regulations anymore. All I wanted was to have a voice and tell the truth about our struggles. The only way to do this was through my art.”
IT WAS MEANT TO BE
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