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HLENGIWE LUSHABA/MADLALA (article first published : 2007-11-12)

Hlengiwe Madlala better known to KZN audiences by her maiden name of Lushaba is currently appearing as Rebecca in Hairspray which is running in the splendid new Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City.

Felicitously, she sang I Will Survive! for the Hairspray auditions but this talented young lady has done more than just survive since she left Durban.

Born in Kwa Mashu, she was educated at Our Lady of Fatima Convent before enrolling at Technikon Natal (now Durban University of Technology) where she completed a National Diploma in Drama Studies in 2001. This is where she started dancing for the first time under the tuition of Jay Pather who she describes as her mentor. She also pays tribute to department head Debbie Lutge for her guidance and support.

Since moving to Johannesburg she has appeared in Gazlam for SABC1, the musical Soweto Story, and shes done a couple of adverts for SABC. Its much better here, she comments about the work situation in Johannesburg. There are far more opportunities. However, she touches on the challenges facing performing artists where they are often forced or tempted to take any kind of job because they are desperate for money. By taking on a vocal role out of their natural range, singers could destroy their voices in the process.

She has won a number of FNB-Vita dancing and choreography awards and was a Jomba! FNB Vita New Moves Grant Recipient two years running. She was also chosen for the Young Artists Programme funded by Pro-Helvetia and the Swiss Agency Development Cooperation in 2002, the FNB Dance Umbrella Choreographic Residency in 2003 and was the FNB Dance Umbrella New Moves Grant Recipient in 2004.

Last year, she was the winner of the 2006 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance. It was a challenge, she admits, and brought her into the company of other winners much older than herself. With the award prize money comes a commission to present a work at the next National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and Hlengiwe created its not over until the fit fat phat lady sings. She was the first Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner to take her art to the townships and her production was performed at Nombulelo Hall in Rhini. This was a controversial move and gave the festival organisers much concern in terms of infrastructure but Hlengiwe stood her ground and took her production to the people. its not over until the fit fat phat lady sings has also been performed in Switzerland, Paris and Belgium.

At the age of 25, Hlengiwe is now married and the mother of two children aged six and one and a half. My mother has been my main cornerstone, she smiles. I always wanted to be on stage, I knew it from when I was in Standard 2. The whole family is musical and can play instruments. While both her children are showing signs of musical and dancing talent, Hlengiwe is in two minds about encouraging them. Im so scared for them because its hard in this industry. But I want them to do what they want. I have great faith in the future for the performing arts in South Africa and things will get better. Itll be great.

Hlengiwe originally auditioned for the role of Motormouth in Hairspray and, although the part went to Mara Louw, Hlengiwe is Maras understudy and plays the role on Friday nights.

It would therefore be a good move for KZN theatregoers to take advantage of the Thompson Tours weekend special which includes a ticket to the show as well as one or two nights accommodation at either the Protea Hotel at Gold Reef City of the Gold Reef City Hotel itself. Package prices are available until January 8. Destination: Protea Hotel at Gold Reef City - fly-in ex Durban R1,847 for one night and R2,376 for two nights (self drive: R829 for one night and R1,363 for two nights). Destination: Gold Reef City Hotel - fly-in ex Durban R1,968 for one night and R2,618 for two nights (self drive: R955 for one night and R1,605 for two nights).

In both cases, the weekend fly-in includes: return flights to Johannesburg including taxes, two days Avis Group P car rental with 200kms free per day and standard insurance cover, Breakfast Daily and 1 evening show ticket per person (Dress Circle seats). Conditions apply.

Normal booking for Hairspray is at Computicket. Caroline Smart




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