national Arts Festival Banner

Thursday, November 23, 2023



Flying into life – by Heather Dugmore


Thando Silinda

“It feels surreal being in Boston in the United States at one of the top music colleges in the world, living in a different country and pursuing my dream.”

Thando Silinda (21) from Mbombela, Mpumalanga, has just started a four-year Bachelor of Music degree at Berklee College of Music. She was one of the finalists in the 2022 Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) Nyoloha Scholarship Programme (NSP). In partnership with Nedbank, Sun International and Business and Arts South Africa, two fully-paid scholarships are awarded every year to young people who want to pursue a tertiary qualification in South African in the visual and performing arts.

While Silinda did not win the ACT Nyoloha Scholarship, she says the three-month mentorship programme for all 68 of the shortlisted applicants helped to improve her musical and presentation skills. “During the Nyoloha mentorship I was with other young people who are just as hungry to pursue a career in the arts as I am, and this was so important for my journey,” she explains. “What was also very powerful for me was learning the importance of me as an artist and getting to know myself, which greatly contributed to my confidence in my audition with Berklee.”

And so it was that Silinda landed in Boston “in this very big, unfamiliar city” and is now settled in on the Berklee campus in one of the residences. “The level of talent here is phenomenal, and I work incredibly hard. You must apply yourself from day 1 and practise continually. I play the piano, guitar and drums, and my favourite instrument is the piano. It has so much range and it is the heart of all instruments. I am also receiving formal vocal training.”

Her musical preference is South African gospel, neo soul and R&B. “I’m exploring the kind of music I want to make. Being here, I realise how many music styles there are in the world as there is a large international community at the school.”

Poovandran Pillay, Executive Head for Corporate Social Investment at Nedbank, says: “Nyoloha means 'to rise' in Sesotho, and our goal is for all the talented young people participating in this programme to pursue bright careers in the arts and culture sector. Although there are only two ACT NSP winners every year, it opens many doors to the world.”


Naledi Lebelo

Also starting out on her musical studies journey is the winner of the 2023 Nyoloha Performing Arts scholarship, Naledi Lebelo (24) from Bloemfontein, who will start her three-year diploma at the Campus of Performing Arts in Midrand at the beginning of 2024.

“I feel so blessed and lucky,” says Lebelo who sings, and plays the guitar and djembe drums. “I get to study my number 1 passion, which is music, and I am one step closer to becoming the artist I have always imagined myself to be, impacting people’s hearts and minds.”

Lebelo has always loved music and wanted to be a musician from a young age. “My family was concerned about me pursuing such a challenging career where only a few make it. But I still wanted to do music, and after matric I collaborated with other musicians and recorded songs. I have a couple of my own songs under my belt in the soul and pop genre. I write about what I’m experiencing and about God, and to encourage others not to give up. It’s a healthy outlet for expressing deep emotions.”

Lebelo started a degree in music at Wits University, but Covid-19 put an end to this as funding became too difficult. ‘Now I have been given a second chance, and after bringing the scholarship home and showing my Mom the videos from the gala awards evening, she said “Wow, you really can sing!” and she showed all her co-workers.


Azanda Nyangintsimbi

At the same awards in the visual arts category, the winner of the 2023 Nyoloha scholarship is Azanda Nyangintsimbi (18) from Pretoria who says: “This scholarship is a symbol of faith in my potential and abilities. It's a sign that people believe in my dreams as much as I do.”

He is currently completing matric at Pretoria Boys High and has applied to study fine art next year at either the University of Pretoria or the University of Cape Town.

“I started drawing as a child and when I was 10, I wanted to be a fashion designer,” he explains. “In high school I chose art as one of my subjects and although I could draw when I started learning about what art is, I fell in love with it, and I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

His primary medium at present is charcoal and he has ‘a hyper-realistic way of drawing’. “Through my art I express the complexities of identity, our social, racial, cultural and self-identity. My work is very introspective, like an autobiography of what I see. I look at gender, masculinity and femininity and where people are along that spectrum. South Africa is a very diverse country. There are 1,500 boys at Pretoria Boys and we are all different but everyone finds their place and we accommodate each other.”


Liam Rose

Last year’s winner of the Nyoloha Visual Arts scholarship is Liam Rose (21), who is about to complete the 1st year of his degree in digital arts and game design at Wits University.

“I am so happy at Wits. The lecturers and tutors are wonderful and the facilities are forward-thinking. I always wanted to go to university and winning the scholarship has shifted the trajectory of my life. It’s absolutely brilliant.

“I chose digital arts and game design because people are so focused on technology now, and it is important for us as artists to move with the times. I’ve been learning about story-writing and animation, and I would like to get my Masters and then work as an animator with the goal of becoming an animation director which would give me the platform to use my voice and vision to tell the stories I want to tell: personal, original South African stories that express the diversity of cultures here.”

Rose is also learning sign language at Wits. “We had to choose a language class and I chose sign language. It’s a fascinating visual language with a lot of hand movements, which have loosened up my hands and enabled me to draw faster. I’ve learnt so much about people who are hard of hearing and it has given me a deeper perspective into their world and lifestyle.”


Marang Qhamisa Gwatyu

Winner of the 2022 Nyoloha Performing Arts scholarship Marang Qhamisa Gwatyu (20) from Pretoria is completing her first year of the three-year diploma at the Luitingh Alexander Musical Theatre Academy (LAMTA) in Cape Town.

“When I arrived here, it took a bit of time to adjust as I was not used to being in Cape Town by myself, but I have definitely found my place at LAMTA,” Gwatyu explains. “The lecturers are inspiring, experienced and patient. I’m being taught by people who have worked very hard to be where they are and they have all had performance experience.

“I’m a dancer but we do singing, dancing and acting here at a high level,” she continues. “It’s pressured as you have rehearsals after school, you are in musical theatre productions and constantly on your feet as they are preparing us for the world of work. I also work backstage as you have to learn the whole production side of things, including lighting, sound, wardrobe and stage management.

Gwatyu stays in residence at LAMTA in Camps Bay. “It’s pretty amazing as it’s so close to the beach where I go whenever I can. The ACT Nyoloha scholarship is the reason that I am here in this beautiful place studying at LAMTA. It has given me the opportunity to live a life that I could not have imagined. I have so many dreams, and I would love to one day be on Broadway and tour in a big musical.”

Commenting on the students, Jessica Denyschen, ACT Chief Executive Officer says: ‘We’re beaming with joy to witness our 2022 scholarship alumni Liam, Marang and Thando soaring to great heights in their studies. What is also inspiring to witness are the professional leaps that the 2023 scholarship winners are already making in their careers, with musician Naledi having already recorded some of her own songs and visual arts scholarship recipient Azanda Nyangintsimbi having sold original artworks as part of the 2023 Nyoloha Visual Arts exhibition.’

For more information on ACT, click on the ACT logo to the right of this article to link to their website.