In Her Own Words: Mam’ Nomhle Nkonyeni Reflects On Her Career

President Cyril Ramaphosa bestows the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver to Nomhle Nkonyeni at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. South,Africa. 25/04/2019.

Legendary award-winning actress, Mam’ Nomhle Nkonyeni has passed away at the age of 77, after a resilient career spanning 50 years. In a TEDx talk given in 2016, Nkonyeni attributed her success to legendary playwright Athol Fugard. She said: “I am what I am today, I was nurtured by that man. He couldn’t teach me acting, he couldn’t teach me how to interpret a story. But he nurtured the little talent that I have.”

“I am the first person who has knocked down this door, I’m not going to pull it back. I’m not going to close this door. Others should follow.” Mam Nomhle Nkonyeni says in the TEDx talk on her career, which she gave in Port Elizabeth. 

Being, many times, the first black woman to perform on some stages in South Africa and abroad, Mam’ Nkonyeni has paved the way for many to follow her, as she wanted. “I never closed that door, I actually burst it and people came after me. At least I have made some history.”

In her career, Mam Nkonyeni has shown resilience and courage. Her stern position against subserviency is one to make any feminist proud. She relays moments in her career where she has to rise up against subserviency. From acting toe-to-toe with legendary actress, Yvonne Bryceland, to not giving in to demands from American actress, Hillary Swank. Mam Nkonyeni proved herself against the best and became the legend she is. 

Mam’ Nomhle Nkonyeni passed away on Wednesday morning, 10 July. She had been in hospital since Friday.

Mam’ Nomhle Nkonyeni has been in more than 30 films in her career and has made TV appearances on Scandal on eTv,  Igazi on Mzansi Magic and Ngempela on SABC 1 among many others. Her career began on stage, however, the stage remained her greater love.

Featured image by Jairus Mmutle (GCIS)