Ntshieng Mokgoro: community stories

7 November 2008

Ntshieng Mokgoro, winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama 2009, is a born storyteller.

The 35-year-old mother of three has already made a profound mark on South Africa’s drama scene, having developed a number of community-based projects into professional productions staged on various national platforms.

Mokgoro graduated from Alexandra Technical College in Johannesburg 1992 with a diploma in cosmetology, which she says she hated!

“Luckily, I got a job as an assistant librarian, and part of my job description was to do storytelling for primary school kids,” she says. “I would ask the kids to dramatise the stories we read, and that’s where the passion for drama came from.”

Mokgoro finds inspiration from observing the life of people in the township. “From seeing a dirty little girl playing on the pavement in the township, to an old woman selling vegetables and chicken intestines at the side of a road, to a teenage girl who is screaming for help in the middle of the night. Township life, rural life.”

She loves writing about myths of women, birth, arranged marriages, and the death of women.

When asked about the actors she would like to work with, she says she is particularly impressed with Reshoketswe Sebotsane, who played in the television series Death of a Queen. “I’m impressed by women who have presence, grace and power on stage, and who really know what they are doing.”

Mokgoro’s production Umdlwembe, which she wrote and directed for the Barney Simon Young Directors Festival, was awarded a professional season at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre in December 1999, and was funded by Standard Bank to go to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2000.

In 2000, Moroko’s play Eyes of Truth was directed by Sello Maake Ka Ncube for the Barney Simon Young Writers Festival.

Ntshieng has also tried her hand successfully at scriptwriting for television and film. In 2001 she was a script contributor for Gazlam 1, a drama for SABC 1 that explored the theme of HIV/Aids through the experience of two young people. The series also looked at the hard reality of young people growing up in Yeoville and trying to make it in the music business.

In 2004, she was a trainee director for the controversial movie about the Rwandan genocide, Hotel Rwanda.

In 2005, she wrote and directed a residence project at the Market Theatre Laboratory which was nominated for a Naledi Award in 2006.

In 2007 she wrote and directed Thursday’s Child, which won an award at the Market Theatre’s Zwakala Festival and was performed at the Youth Festival in Vienna.

Mokgoro is currently director of the Publik Kreativity Drama Krew, based in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, where she lives with her husband Mothusi and her three sons Karabo, Boitumelo and Bogosi.

“I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to promote myself and my work to be recognised as one of the few female black directors in South Africa,” says Mokgoro.

“It is also an opportunity to learn and to gather all the knowledge and skills that, in future, I will impart to female directors who are also struggling to make a mark, or have their voice heard, in the industry.”

The annual Standard bank Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, with Standard Bank coming on board as a sponsor in 1984.

The awards, seen as one of the most prestigious of their kind in the country, honour young South African artists who have not yet gained widespread national exposure or acclaim, but who are making a significant mark in their field.

The awards recognize and actively promote the talent of these young artists, providing them with financial support and a platform for experimentation. Winners receive a cash prize and financial support for their participation on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.

Source: National Arts Festival, Grahamstown