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Friday, July 10, 2020


(Welcome Msomi)

Veteran playwright Welcome Msomi died at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal at the age of 76 on July 3, 2020. His health issues began in June last year when he collapsed and went into a diabetic coma, In November last year, he suffered a major stroke which left him paralyzed.

Durban-born Msomi is world-renowned for writing and directing the theatre play Umabatha. The play is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, and details how Mabatha overthrows Dingane.

Described as Msomi's "most famous" work, uMabatha was written when Msomi was a student at the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). It was first performed at the University's Open-Air Theatre in 1971. The following year, it was performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Aldwych Theatre as part of that year's World Theatre Season, and has subsequently been performed in Italy, Scotland, Zimbabwe, and throughout America, including a "very successful off-Broadway season in 1978".

Nelson Mandela said that "(t)he similarities between Shakespeare's Macbeth and our own Shaka become a glaring reminder that the world is, philosophically, a very small place." (Wikipedia)

Msomi also directed Buya Africa and created music for Tamburlaine the Great, a Royal Shakespeare Company production.

He received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre from the Arts & Culture Trust in 2012. He owned his own recording label and was active in the public relations industry.

TV producer Duma Ndlovu paid tribute to Msomi saying: "Welcome was a giant tree full of ideas who always wanted to take arts and culture to another level. Always searching for ways to do better for South African arts and culture. He was a show runner, a dreamer and a visionary."

An article in IOL states:

“Welcome Msomi made his creative debut when he wrote a book at the tender age of 15.

The book gave rise to a career of half a decade during which Bab’Msomi distinguished himself in radio and as a choreographer and outstanding playwright who became a force in Zulu literature and South African culture at large.

Early in his career he established the iZulu Dance Theatre (IDT) and Music in 1965 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.”

The article continues with a tribute from President Ramaphosa who expressed his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Msomi.

“We have lost a cultural stalwart whose creativity gave depth, colour and lyricism to South Africa’s dramatic and complex history," said Ramaphosa.

“While Welcome Msomi was exceptionally talented as an individual, he dedicated his energy, time and resources to the development of new generations of performers who would celebrate and showcase our nation’s cultural diversity.

“This investment in the future of our cultural communities is Welcome Msomi’s true legacy; one that will ensure that his inspiration lives on in his physical absence.”