About Gcina Mhlophe

Gcina Mhlophe

Nokugcina Elsie Mhlophe (born 1958) is a well-known South African freedom fighter, activist, actor, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author. Storytelling is a deeply traditional activity in Africa and Mhlophe is one of the few woman storytellers in a country dominated by males. She does her most important work through charismatic performances, working to preserve storytelling as a means of keeping history alive and encouraging South African children to read. She tells her stories in four of South Africa’s languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa.

This is beginning of the the Wikipedia entry for South Africa’s beloved Storyteller and Literacy Campaigner Gcina Mhlophe.

Gcina Mhlophe Bibliography

Born: 24th of October 1958 in Durban, South Africa

Languages: Zulu, Xhosa, English, Sotho

School-education: 1979 matriculation at the Mfundisweni High School

Professional training: Cadet Journalism course at the Rhodes University

6 months Film Making Course as part of Interchurch Media Programme’s Community Project

Journalism: Part-time news reading for the Press Trust, BBC Radio, Africa Service and between 1982/83 she was writing for the Learn and Teach magazine

Gcina Mhlophe

Nokugcina Elsie Mhlophe (born 1958) is a well-known South African freedom fighter, activist, actor, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author. Storytelling is a deeply traditional activity in Africa and Mhlophe is one of the few woman storytellers in a country dominated by males. She does her most important work through charismatic performances, working to preserve storytelling as a means of keeping history alive and encouraging South African children to read. She tells her stories in four of South Africa’s languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa.

This is beginning of the the Wikipedia entry for South Africa’s beloved Storyteller and Literacy Campaigner Gcina Mhlophe

Gcina MhlopheGcina Mhlophe

Career History

Gcina Mhlophe


1983 Lead actress in Umongikazi – The Nurse by Maishe Maponya, later touring England, Ireland, Holland and Switzerland.

1984/85 Acting in the workshop play The Black Dog – Injemnyama, directed by Barney Simon, touring South Africa

1985 and 87 – 89 Writing and acting in the autobiographical piece Have you seen Zandile?, touring South Africa, Lesotho, most of Europe – participating at the Edinburgh festival. Mounting the piece as a Visiting Director at the Chicago Theatre Co. and at Knoxville’s Carpet Bag Theatre in Tennessee with different US. actors, who later went touring USA.

1986 Acting in the workshop play Born In The RSA, directed by Barney Simon, touring South Africa, England, most of Europe and the US. Participation at the Edinburgh festival.

1987 Visiting assistant director with Barney Simon at Boston’s Brandeis University, workshoping and staging the musical play Written By Hand.

1989/90 Resident Director at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. Co-writing and singing in the musical Inyanga, directed by Barney Simon. Writing and directing Somdaka, touring Johannesburg’s Townships and Zimbabwe.

1995 Co-writing an adaptation of Brecht’s The Good Person Of Sechuan with Janet Suzman for BBC, London and the Market Theatre, Johannesburg

1998 Wrote and performed in the one woman show Love Child, by Mannie Manim Production. Took it to Japan to the Solo Festival in Tokyo

Theatre Awards:

1987 OBIE Award as best actress in Born in the RSA – New York

1987 Fringe First Award for best production of Have You Seen Zandile – Edinburgh Festival

1988 Joseph Jefferson Award as best actress in Have You Seen Zandile – Chicago

1988 Sony Award nomination for best production of Have You Seen Zandile – BBC Radio Africa

Cinema and TV:

Gcina Mhlophe

1986 Lead Actress in Place Of Weeping, directed by Darryl Roodt and produced by Anant Singh

1988 Lead Actress in Palesa, written and directed by Elaine Proctor

1990 Acting, telling stories and performing poetry in the documentary Songololo, directed by Marianne Kaplan, Canada

1992 Acting and narrating in the documentary Traveling Songs by Lindy Wilson

1995 Narrating in the documentary Prisoners Of Hope by Danny Schechter, USA

TV – Presenter for Art Works and Literacy Alive at SABC and frequent voice over work

1998 Nine part storytelling TV series Gcina and Friends for SABC, produced by Endemol, sponsored by JOKO, Unilever.

2002 Ten Part History series for Television Looking Back, Moving Forward for SABC Education

2005/2006 Presented Traditional Music Program Zindala Zombili on SABC Television

2007 Narration for the Internationally acclaimed Angolan Documentary Film, SAUDADES, From the One Who Loves You.

Publications and Writing:

Gcina Mhlophe

1979 Poetry in the Staffrider Magazine, Ravan Press

1980 Story and Poetry in Reconstruction, Ravan Press

1981 Story and Poetry in the LIP – Anthology, Ravan Press

1987 Story and Poetry in Sometimes When It Rains, Pandora Press, UK – Translations into German and Japanese

1987 Stories in Somehow Tenderness Survives, Harper and Row, USA

1988 Have You Seen Zandile? Play script, Skotaville Publishers, SA – Prescribed set work at the University Natal, University of Western Cape and UNISA, Republished 1991 for world release by Heinemann publishers, New York

1989 Snake With Seven Heads, children’s book, Skotaville Publishers, SA – Translations into five African languages. Accepted in the schools libraries.

1990 Queen Of The Tortoises, children’s book, Skotaville Publishers, SA

1991 Molo! Zoleka, children’s book, published and translated into four different South African languages by David Philip, SA

1992 The Singing Dog, children’s book, Skotaville Publishers, SA

Gcina Mhlophe

1995 Ma Zanendaba – A Mother’s Search For Stories, children’s book, published in English and Afrikaans by Knowledge Unlimited, SA

1995 Story in The River That Went To The Sky, Kingfisher Anthology of African folklore, England

1996 Love Child, Biographical Work, Peter Hammer Verlag, Germany

1997 Kwesukesukela – Stories from Africa in five languages pubished by Bona Magazine

1997 Awarded writers’ fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy – work on the children’s musical Mata Mata

1999 Fudukazi’s Magic, Cambridge Univ. Press, this comes with CD and Video made in 2001 – Karl Becker of GM Storyworks.

1999 Recorded and released Kwesuke-sukela a storytelling audio tape that went with a book containing twelve of my stories, Stories From Africa or Zimnandi Ngokuphindwa in Zulu and Xhosa, sponsored by Joko Storytelling project.

1999 Published children’s book NALOHIMA – The Deaf Tortoise by Gemsbok publishers NALOHIMA also won the Namibian Children’s Book Forum Award only a month after its release.

2001 Nozincwadi – Mother of Books, Maskew Miller Longman, with CD and Video by Karl Becker as part of the Nozincwadi Road Show to promote reading in S. African schools

2002 English edition of Love Child has come out – Univ. of Natal Press

2002 An African Mother Christmas, Maskew Miller Longman

2003 Stories of Africa, University of KwaZulu Natal Press Nominated for Exclusive Books Publisher’s Choice

2003 Conception and writing of the multi-lingual books for First Words in Print – Centre For The Book, Maskew Miller Longman

2004 Five early learning books in indigenous languages for Siyakhula Series, Oxford University Press (due for release in 2005)

2004 The Story of Mazanendaba published in Italian by Corraini Publishers, Mantova, Italy

2006 Nozincwadi, Mother of Books was published to great acclaim in South America in Portuguese.

2008 Our Story Magic published by University of KwaZulu Natal

2009 African Tales published by Barefoot Publishers in England

Literature, storytelling and heritage awards:

Gcina Mhlophe

1994 Bookchat Award for Molo Zoleka!, BC Magazine, SA

1991 NOMA-Awards Nomination for Queen Of The Tortoises

1994 Honorary Doctorate for Literature by the London Open University, England

1996 Carl Lohann Award for children’s books

1998 Honorary Doctorate for Literature by the University of Natal, RSA

2004 Award for Life Time Achievement in Contribution to Traditional Arts

2004 Nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Sweden

Astrid Lindgren Award nomination for three more years in a row 2007, 2008 and

2009/2010, SAMA Award for Songs and Stories of Africa CD

2010 EThekwini Living Legends Award, Dept of Arts and Culture, KwaZulu Natal

2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, Arts and Culture Trust, RSA

2011 Award for Contribution to Arts in Education, by Dept of Education KZN

Performing Poetry and Storytelling:

Gcina Mhlophe

1988 Performing poetry in a one woman show during the international Women’s Project Festival, New York.

1988 Conducting storytelling workshops and performing in local libraries and at schools.

1989/90 Conducting storytelling workshops at teacher training colleges and directing performances

1989 Co-operating with the READ Education Trust on several of their literacy projects.

1989 Workshops in dramatising and choreographing stories with the Cape-Town Jazzart Dance School.

1989/90 Organising two national storytelling festivals with the Market Theatre

1990 Performing Stories and Poetry at the Werkstatt III Festival in Hamburg, Germany

1990 Directing and performing in Storytelling productions at the Grahamstown Arts Fes tival and the Schools Festival

1992 Founding and directing the storytellers’ organisation Zanendaba, Johannesburg, SA

Since 1992 Touring and performing in South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, England, Netherlands, Australia and others

1992/93 Teaching as a visiting lecturer at Natal University/SA; Kyoto Syka University/ Japan and Edge Hill, Lancashire/England

1994 Releasing Gift Of The Tortoise with Ladysmith Black Mambazo – a children’s songs and stories CD, Music For Little People, California, USA

1994/95 Storytelling to raise awareness about endangered animals at the Easter Rand Show, commissioned by Nedbank

1994/95 Workshop performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in UK and SA

1995 Creating and performing stories for the London Royal Academy Of Arts in connection with the Africa 95 festival exhibition.

1995 Keynote speaker at the IDEA 95 International Dramatists’ Congress, Brisbane, Australia

Since 1995 motivational talks for Liberty Life, DION, Eskom, Juicy Lucy, others

Since 1995 weekly storytelling on Radio Zulu and Radio Xhosa

1996 Storytelling tour and promotion of the book Love Child in Switzerland

Since 1996 Consultant for JOKO on their African languages programme.

1997 Performed at the Durban Poetry Festival hosted and organized by the University of Natal, SA.

Gcina Mhlophe

1997 Participated in the Würburg Afrika Festival and toured Germany

1997 Toured France with storytelling performances and workshops held at public libraries

1997 Lectured at the University of Bergamo. Performed at pubic schools in Milan, Italy

1997 Release of the CD der welt erzählt (the world tells stories); an anthology on storytelling by die Erklärung von Bern und dem Züricher Puppentheater

1998 Performed poetry at the United Nations’ Conference ECA celebrating African Women in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia

1998 Doing Peter and the Wolf with the Durban Synfonic Orchestra

1998 Performing Africa at the Opera with the Francis Bebe Quartet and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the Köln Philharmonie and other Opera Houses in Germany

1998 Touring in the North of Germany for the Schleswig Holtstein Kindertheater-Festiva l”

1998 Participated in an intensive musical workshop in Senegal’s Goree Island at the Goree Institute , with many African musicians from different African countries.

1999 Toures 26 schools telling stories and running story creation workshops in the Schlesvic Holtstein region in North Germany

1999 Ran a two week master class on the Art of Storytelling and Story Creation as part of Das Arts School of the Arts in Amsterdam , Holland

1999 Wrote stories and music for musical storytelling show WAVES & TALES at Durban’s Playhouse Theatre with guitarist Bheki Khoza

1999 Was one of the top performers at the GRAZ International Storytelling Festival in Austria.

1999 MC and performer at the Wuerzburg Africa Festival in Germany, the focus country was South Africa.

1999 Took WAVES and TALES to the USA and performed to a highly enthusiastic audience at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC

1999 Was awarded the ARTS and CULTURE HERITAGE AWARD for preserving the art and heritage of African Storytelling

1999 Wrote and directed a family musical play, Mata- Mata at Durban’s Playhouse Theatre, (I wrote both music and script)

2000 Recorded new series of Radio Storytelling programmes for

1. UMhlobo Wenene Radio (Xhosa) and

2. UKhozi FM (Radio Zulu) both sponsored by the JOKO Storytelling Project .

2000 Wrote and presented story for Animated Taled of the World Project, and then Co – wrote the script of same story How Tortoise Won Respect for animated film by Right Angle TV (England) in collaboration with SABC Education. Also wrote and recorded music for the same film with musicians Pops Mohamed and Bheki Khoza.

2000 Represented South Africa at the Hannover Expo, Germany

2000 Touring RSA with the Million Books Project

2001 and 2002 Nozincwadi Literacy Campaign – touring rural areas in South Africa Promoting the importance of reading and starting school library boxes.

A CD was also recorded with music, stories and poetry with the strong reading message for young people. Every school visited received a large box full of books for their library.

2003 Story telling tour of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria

2003 Writer’s residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston USA

2004 Visiting Lecturer to conduct Storytelling Workshop with second year drama students at University of Cape Town

2004 Visiting schools and universities in Brazil on the invitation of the RSA High Commissioner, Sao Paulo

2004 Participating in the hosting of iBbY Congress in South Africa

2004 Italian tour to promote Le Story de Mazanendaba

2004 Touring the UK for the promotion of South African literature as part of the celebration of Ten Years of Democracy

2006 Gcina represented South Africa at the FIFA World Cup in Germany and performed at the South African World Cup Logo Reveal, a performance that was broadcast to billions of Television viewer around the world.

2008 received Honorary Doctorates for Literature and Contribution to Africa’s Cultural Heritage from University of Pretoria and from Fort hare University

Again on the same year she received the Prestige Award from CITY Press and RAPPORT newspapers for excellence in her field.

2008 Nozincwadi work grew to host the First Storytelling Festival, celebrating Books and Stories. 2009 the Festival was again a great success!

2009 Gcina travelled to Germany and Greenland to perform with an all woman cast HOUSE OF SONG and HOPE she wrote the script and music.

Same year she stayed on and created a new Workshop Theatre Piece with Greenlandic performers, Travelling Song, a partnership that will be performed at the Vancouver Arctic Winter Games in March 2010. In all she does, Gcina continues to fly South Africa’s flag with pride.

2010 Launch of Songs and Stories of Africa CD in isiZulu and isiXhosa

Gcina Mhlophe

2010 Gcina represented South Africa in Egypt for the Celebration of African Cultures

2010 Stories of Africa also came out in Portuguese in South America.

2010 African Mother Christmas CD released

2011 Jaipur Literature Festival in India, where she received great appreciation for her books as well as storytelling performances

2011 Manila, Philippines, as guest of the SA Embassy: Moonlight Magic a storytelling show which was very well received. She also ran Master Classes for Teachers and Librarians

2011 Singapore, Hosted by the National Museum as part of the CONGO Mask Exhibition.