Gcina Mhlophe is the custodian of stories, 21 Icons South Africa founder Adrian Steirn says, as the Zulu indefatigable storyteller’s short film is set to be released on the 21 Icons website and on online platforms worldwide.
“When she tells a story, you watch a lady come alive. Her very being is inspired by the stories that she carries with her every day,” Steirn adds.
Apart from boasting an immense storytelling talent, Mhlophe is also an accomplished author, poet, playwright, director, performer and public speaker. Her works have been translated into German, French, Italian, Swahili and Japanese, and she spent much of her career travelling and performing across the globe.
“I have been telling stories to men and women and children of different races and different cultures all over the world, It is an amazing thing,” she says.
“You can connect with people of all races and cultures, in whatever language you use, because the joy you feel as you tell a story resonates with them.”
Mhlophe’s irrepressible spirit drives her every day to share Africa’s stories, myths, folktales, history and values through the ancient — and, sadly, diminishing — oral tradition of storytelling.
“When I wake up in the morning I’ve got a challenge, I’ve got a reason to wake up because I’ve got work to do, ” she tells the 21 Icons team.
“Preserve the heritage of my people. I tell stories in order to wake up stories in other people because I truly believe every living being has got a story to tell.”
The artist is the last South African icon to be celebrated by the 21 Icons series on Sunday 15 December 2013, during which her portrait will also be published in the Sunday Times newspaper.
All is well and ends well in the 21 Icons South Africa.
Photo: Gcina Mhlophe. Credit: Adrian Steirn