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Miriam Makeba - Qongqothwane (The Click Song) 

South African singer Miriam Makeba performs The Click Song in the Dutch VARA TV studios, september 1979.

#Prompted by off-line reactions to the “Saartjie Baartman cake” by Xhosa and Coloured people .Incoko phanhle ka tumblr…

This Girl is on Fire!

Business scientist, actress, singer, broadcaster, entrepreneur – some of the job titles held by the accomplished, South African born beauty, Nambitha Ben-Mazwi. Honing her aptitude for media in Cape Town, Ben-Mazwi began her career as a child. Covering a childhood spent touring Western Europe as a singer, and life as an adult navigating the worlds of entertainment and business, Ben-Mazwi’s words touch on elements of identity, success and uncertainty, artistic desire, and cultural globalization. 

Q. Originally from South Africa, did the art scene there influence you growing up? What were you involved in?

Of course! South Africa is home, and my heritage being a Xhosa lady raised by Xhosa women influenced me a great deal. My mannerisms, etiquette, music and cultural influences were further exposed to European ways growing up. I often took part in many musicals (Andrew Lloyd Webber being one of my favorite music composers) and I sang a great deal all around Western Europe in many European languages while representing the province I grew up in. Art to me evolved while growing up as I became exposed to the world through travel from the tender age of 11, and it continues to be a journey firmly rooted in South Africa.

Q. Did you always want to be a singer and actress? What has your artistic journey been like? 

When I was young, yes. But my journey has been somewhat of a circle where I now have come back to who I am, was and wanted to be. Singing wasn’t something I was aware of. I thought everyone could hold a note. I still struggle with the denial that I am somewhat gifted in music regardless of being chosen to sing my first solo at the age of 3. My journey as an actress was an undeniable one. I’ve always loved The Arts and being on stage, whether it be through public speaking, music, theatre, or dance. My uncle, a Broadway Tony award winner and acting veteran, Winston Ntshona, strongly influenced me. Although I progressed into a life after school, where I graduated with an honors in Business Science and worked in the corporate world, my trip and sudden move to New York City, where I had to rely on my natural gifts in order to make a sudden living, brought me back to the calling I have for the performing arts. Having been on international stages growing up, then finding myself working amongst the best comedians/actors in New York, inspired my career decision of going back to being an artist and independent business women. My journey has made me realize that I can use my core strengths to make a difference and influence in the world. That being said, I have come full circle as an artist in going against society’s expectations of a Business Scientist. I am currently living an honest life of no compromise and answering to my core each day.

Q. Who are some of the individuals that influenced you – both growing up, and currently? 

People who consciously influence me are the same people who I look up to. That being said, I only look up to someone who I know, and whose flaws I understand yet still admire. That to me is my mother and grandmother. Their grace; strength; integrity; smart wit; and brave sacrificial lives they have both lived, are traits I have experienced daily and that I aspire to possess. My grandmother in particular, is a woman who has put our family name as a street name, named after her, and she has taught me the importance of leaving a true legacy. My uncle, Winston Ntshona, who I’ve mentioned has influenced me in terms of acting, has further inspired my life motto of using my strengths and platform, to make a significant difference. His journey of being a screen actor, playwright and thespian, and who during apartheid traveled the world with playwright Athol Fugard and actor John Kani, performing plays as a form of protest against the apartheid regime led them to win Tony Awards on Broadway. That example to me, exemplified that it is indeed possible to use your calling and strengths as a platform to make a difference. I currently am working towards mirroring my family’s influence.

Q. Tell me about Presenter Search and what that experience was like.

“Presenter Search on 3 ” was a great experience for me–most importantly I learnt more about the South African TV industry (which is rather more conservative than the US) and being picked after a nationwide search among thousands of TV hosting hopefuls as the top 11 best presenters in the country was humbling. Competing for 3 spots in 3 shows was tricky, as I always had to be aware that we are being used as show content to achieve top ratings, while also maintaining a unique TV personality and a professional brand image throughout the drama-induced reality show. It was nonetheless fun, and further inspired my quest in pursuing producing.

Q. How do you balance your acting, singing, and business life? 

When you do what you were born to do, things somehow become effortless. I never feel the pressure of balancing each as I am a strategist by nature and qualification. I work towards what I have set out and make sure every element that I am committed to in media is mutually exclusive.

Q. Style is important to you. How would you describe your style? 

Everyday for me, is an opportunity for fashion. I was raised to always take pride in my appearance and my late grandmother was a strong influence when it came to that. Style is an extension of who I am, and I have seen how much of a strong role it has played in my career progression. I always describe my unique style as elegant and edgy.

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment thus far? 

My NYC story is probably one of the gutsiest moves I have ever pulled thus far. I went for what started as a 2 week holiday to visit the only person I knew in New York, with the intention of networking…and well. I didn’t get on the plane back home and gave myself a week to find a job, make a living and find an apartment! I still have NO IDEA how I was able to pull that off and possess the entertainment/business leads I had managed to get and work with there. Being on TV in the states is a very different ball game to South Africa. Seeing how hard-working and humble international American stars are, grounds me in my quest to build a global career. Living in NYC was a truly remarkable experience that not only taught me how to hustle and survive, but I learnt a lot about myself and that anyone can achieve ANYTHING.

Q. What are you currently working on? 

I just came back from a radio guest interview on Cliff Central where I just exposed my current move—Johannesburg! It’s only my fourth day having moved to Jozi and I am excited to continue on some filming projects (acting) and pursue producing. Apart from entertainment, I do still consult independently in digital marketing and strategy, so that will always be a part of me. What South Africans can look out for is my role in a drama series called “Traffic Season 2” which airs Thursdays 8:30pm on Ekasi+, Channel 105.                                             

Q. Lastly, who are some artists that are still on your list of people you’d like to work with?

This list would be very long, but I hope to work/interview Oprah Winfrey and work with film directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen (we are born on the same day!), and Spike Lee to name a few.

Emanating a vibrant charisma, Ben-Mazwi’s approach to work and life is reflective of her desire to create positive things of value and substance.

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