BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
Amakhosi Theatre Productions founder Cont Mhlanga, who died on Monday aged 59, has been described as a Zimbabwean arts legend whose works will impact generations to come.
Mhlanga, a playwright, author, actor, film maker, creative director and media entrepreneur, died at a Bulawayo hospital after he was admitted 10 days ago.
Bulawayo City Council described him as “a legend in the creative industries, who began his career in the arts and karate at a young age and is known for the formation of the Amakhosi Arts Centre, Skyz Metro FM and Breez FM” in Victoria Falls.
“Cont Mhlanga was awarded the civic honours on the 18th October 2002 in recognition of his role in the introduction and subsequent development of theatrical art in Bulawayo, particularly the setting up of Amakhosi Theatre Production,” city mayor Solomon Mguni said in a statement.
“This was in recognition of the fact that community theatre became world renowned and was a great tool in the marketing of the culture and inspirations of the people of Bulawayo.
“Civic honours are awarded to citizens who have rendered long and meritorious public work in the city or had brought distinction to it.
“The resolution to award civic honours was made on the 3rd July 1963 and Mr Cont Mhlanga became the 67th recipient joining other citizens, who had brought distinction to the City of Bulawayo.
Mguni added: “Mr Mhlanga was a visionary and pioneer, who spearheaded many projects in the creative arts industry and was instrumental in the formation of the Bulawayo Cultural Affairs Office (BCAO).
“He was a Bulawayo citizen at the heart serving the city and championing the telling of its story through arts, film and theatre and spearheading a number of projects with great leadership, passion and excellence.”
Former Information and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo also paid tribute to Mhlanga on Twitter where he described him as an “inimitable cultural genius, a legendary playwright, filmmaker, creative director and a grounded political activist whose institution-building legacy is epitomised by Amakhosi Threatre and Skyz Metro FM.”
Some of Mhlanga’s most famous plays include The Good President, The End, Sekunjalo, Amakorokoza, Workshop Negative and The Members.
Former president Robert Mugabe’s regime banned The Good President, which mirrored the late strongman’s iron fisted rule.
Mhlanga through Amakhosi mentored many influential artists in Zimbabwe.
He was also an outspoken political activist, who routinely clashed with the authorities, and spoke fiercely against the marginalisation of Matabeleland.