By Yolanda Moyo
The people of Bulawayo have described the late playwright, Cont Mhlanga as a giant in the arts industry, whose shoes will be difficult to fill.
ZBC News reporter, Yolanda Moyo visited the community around Amakhosi theatre to find out the role played by the arts stalwart in the city, which today feels empty following the passing on of the legendary arts doyen.
The people from communities around Amakhosi theatre described him as a father, brother, unifier and community champion who uplifted the lives of many people in Bulawayo.
“As a community in Mzilikazi, we are feeling empty and lost. Mhlanga was a unifier and a father to most orphans in this area. Children found home at Amakhosi Theatre,” a resident said.
“After school we had a place to go and people have risen from this place and become internationally recognised artists because of him,” another said.
Another said, “Our youth found a place to keep themselves busy, not this what we are seeing now where they are abusing drugs. Cont made sure that he would teach the youth arts, discipline and life wisdom. His departure will be felt for years to come.”
For his former students at Amakhosi, ‘the teacher,’ is irreplaceable.
“The teacher held our hands since we were kids before he transformed the area to Amakhosi. We used to do karate as kids and his works inspired a lot of children and people who then joined. I am hurting,” a former student at Amakhosi Thetare said.
Said another, “Cont kept us off the streets from a tender age. He introduced five a side to us and we managed to be picked by Peter Ndlovu for his team.”
The playwright established Amakhosi Theatre in 1981 where several artistes who passed through his hands, among them Sandra Ndebele, BaShupi, Raisedon Baya and Sarah Nyathi became household names in Zimbabwe.
Mhlanga leaves behind a legacy and ladder that anyone who wants to achieve greater heights in the arts industry can climb, a very rich legacy in the performing arts industry that is an envy of the international community.
The revered arts guru retired in 2016 after 36 years in the arts industry.
Mhlanga made Fridays worth looking forward to back in the days in Bulawayo as the cultural centre hosted a Friday Live at Amakhosi, where live bands would perform with big names such as Alick Macheso and late Tongai Moyo performing there.
A memorial service will be held Friday at Amphitheatre before the body is taken to his rural home in Lupane for burial on Saturday.