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Tuesday, February 14, 2012


(Pic by Suzy Bernstein)

The Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Theatre 2012 is the spunky actress/writer/director Princess Zinzi Mhlongo (25).

Drawing her inspiration from previous Standard Bank Young Artists, Princess believes that the award will enable her to strengthen her artistic voice as well as give her the motivation to continue to grasp opportunities with a renewed passion.

“Andrew Buckland, Mbongeni Ngema, Paul Grootboom, Ntshieng Mokgoro are just a few names of the people who have received this award in previous years. To be added to that list is such an honour. It reassures me that I am going in the right direction,” said Mhlongo about winning this year. “Our journeys are different and can never be the same but I am determined to follow my own path by working hard. I just didn’t think it would lead me to a Standard Bank Award which is why I’m so grateful.”

Mhlongo was born in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga. During her secondary school years at the St Thomas Aquinas School she was a member of the Witbank Youth Theatre. She matriculated in and was inspired to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Drama at the Tshwane University of Technology. She graduated in 2007 but while studying, she directed Joe Woodward’s Naked Goddess, Fatima Dike’s So What’s New? and Michael Williams’ Crocodiles. She is passionate about mentoring community-based artists by sharing her skills and experiences.

“At high school, every time that l would stand up in front of an audience, whether it was to announce something or to present a speech, there was always a feeling of comfort and fulfillment. The more I looked into it the more I realized that the stage was my calling,” said Mhlongo about why she chose to pursue a career in theatre.

Mhlongo is the founder of Tick Tock Productions, a dynamic entertainment company. In 2008, she made her professional debut by directing Zakes Mda’s And The Girls in Their Sunday Dresses at the State Theatre. In 2009 the production received great reviews at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. During 2008, she hosted a mini arts festival at the Pretoria Show-grounds West End Theatre.

“The slogan for my company Tick Tock Productions is There’s A Time For Everything. I’m embracing this moment in time and making it count,” said Mhlongo.

By 2010, Princess was working hard to firmly establish her company and her reputation as a young South African director with enormous promise. At the State Theatre, she was the assistant director to Janine Lewis’s production Without Blood. At the National Arts Festival, she directed Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, for the Festival’s inaugural Arena programme. During October 2010, she revived Zakes Mda’s And The Girls In Their Sunday Dresses for a successful run at the Market Theatre and for a short season at the Witbank Civic Theatre. During the same year, she was invited to participate in a festival in Braunchweig Germany and still found the time to direct to rave reviews Fatima Dike’s play So What”s New? at the Market Theatre.

During 2011, Princess wrote Trapped with assistant writer Zimkitha Kumbeka, a production that she will be taking to Salzburg (Austria), as one of only four young directors selected to take part in the Young Directors Project 2012.

“I’m looking forward to presenting my production Trapped 1-10 in Grahamstown next year before it goes to Salzburg …. This opportunity and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award have come at the perfect time when I am becoming ready to tell my own story, which is very important for my growth,” said Mhlongo. “I know that this award will open up many doors for me. I am ready to grab opportunities as they come. I have big dreams and this is the perfect time for them to come true. Winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award doesn’t mean I have made it but it simply marks the beginning of great things to come.”

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 28-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.

The 2012 National Arts Festival runs from June 28 to July 8. For more information, click on the banner advert at the top of this page which links to the NAF site.