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Cont Mhlanga gives Amakhosi reins to former students

by Staff Reporter
29 Dec 2019 at 08:09hrs | Views
AS Amakhosi Cultural Centre moves to its next phase of renovations, arts doyen Cont Mhlanga will get a chance to sit back and see two of his protégés, Pedzisai Sithole and Owen Maseko, put the final touches as the new and improved centre prepares to reopen its doors.

Amakhosi has been on a journey to reinvent itself, starting with the decommissioning of the theatre unit in March last year and the renovations all through the year. The theatre unit, thought to be the nerve centre of the famed cultural hub, had been out of commission for 12 years, a period that marked Amakhosi's decline.

In an interview with Sunday Life, Mhlanga said a resurgent Amakhosi would be driven by its former students, who were now moving on to the final phase of reconstruction and renovation before Amakhosi re-opened its doors on 21 February.

He said at the centre of the new Amakhosi would be the construction of the Inxwala Food Court, as Amakhosi modelled itself after King Lobengula's ancient City of Bulawayo. Once complete, the centre is expected to become a cultural and tourism hub.

"The renovations are in the programme for next year. The first structure, which is Inxwala Food Court, is now complete. At the centre of that is Iziko Lenxwala. Remember that this place is being designed and remodelled to take a resemblance to King Lobengula's ancient city. So the traditions of Iziko Lenxwala as they were done in the old days will be on display," he said.

Mhlanga explained the layout of the new Amakhosi, which got the seal of approval from Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Mangaliso Ndlovu when he toured there last Saturday.

"For example, we have three giant pots there. One will have boiling water. This water will boil from sun down to sun up. Anyone can request to use this water whether for tea or any other purpose. The second pot has cold water whose temperature will be regulated by ice since we now live in the modern age and again anyone can ask for this water free of charge.

"The third pot has mahewu and anyone who passes through Amakhosi can also request this. Traditionally mahewu was never meant to be sold and we want to maintain that. It is only in the modern age when companies have started to innovate that we've seen mahewu being sold. All this is not for sale because the food court is for everyone as it was in Lobengula's Kingdom," he said.

Mhlanga confirmed that Maseko, who helped with the design of the old Amakhosi, would be in charge of the final design as they put the finishing touches to the centre.

"The most important thing to come out of the construction of this new Amakhosi is that two of our most successful former students are the ones that are leading our efforts to remodel the centre. Firstly, visual artiste Owen Maseko is in charge of the final design and it fills me with pride to see him come back and help us after he started with us all those years back as a young artiste.

"When Owen Maseko started no studio would take him because he was young and had no name of repute as he had just finished school. We gave him his first studio at Amakhosi and as part of his project as a student was the design of the chevrons that really gave Amakhosi its identity as a centre. So everything at the new Amakhosi, from what you see when you enter the gates to the salt shakers in the food court will all be a part of Maseko's vision. His deadline is 21 February which will be our official launch," he said.

Mhlanga said Sithole, now a top tourism resort consultant based in Eswatini, would be in charge of the design and construction of the centre's Great Indaba Hall.

"The second illustrious student of Amakhosi that will help us with or new look is Pedzisai Sithole. He is going to be in charge of the design of the Great Indaba Hall. Pedzisai is now one of the foremost designers of tourist resorts in Swaziland (Eswatini) where he is now based. The design of the hall will borrow heavily from Ingazi, which is the Tonga people's preferred design for their houses.

"For those that remember Pedzisai Sithole as his graduation project he submitted what turned out to be the greatest and most loved TV shows of all time. That show was Sinjalo. He is also the one that directed Jeys Marabini's iconic video, Emarabini while he was still learning with us. He then left and went to establish himself in Swaziland. So with that in mind I'm so proud that Amakhosi is being designed by its former students who have gone on to do great things and are now contributing to our new vision," he said.

Mhlanga added that the centre, in alliance with Lupane State University, would start an arts teacher programme in line with the Government's policy to promote creative art industries.

"When we open, I want to make one thing clear. Amakhosi is not a content production institution. So you hear people saying that Amakhosi is not the same, it is not doing what it used to but my question is, who said we want to be doing the same thing all our lives? Amakhosi started as Dragons Karate Club, then we upgraded it to Amakhosi Arts Workshop and then we upgraded it to Amakhosi Cultural Centre and now we are further upgrading by introducing the Balakhulu Royal College of African Languages, Culture and Heritage Studies.

"Our first intake is in March and we will be affiliated to Lupane State University. The President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) recently launched a policy on the Cultural Creative Industries (CCI) and what we are saying as Amakhosi is that we want to train teachers that will go on to teach others at primary, secondary and even tertiary level. We are now registered with the Ministry of Higher Education and we are now negotiating an MoU with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education," he said.

Source - Sunday News