The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
VETERAN arts administrator Sihlangu Dlodlo will once again take up residence at Amakhosi Cultural Centre, joining Cont Mhlanga and other illustrious students of the famed cultural centre as they try to restore it to its former glory.
Dlodlo, one of the once prodigious talents that Mhlanga regards as the best to ever grace the cultural centre, is returning to Amakhosi and Bulawayo after spending the last five years as light manufacturing giant Innscor Africa’s Sales Marketing Manager.
Mhlanga has credited Dlodlo, a renowned playwright, with many breakthrough strategies that led to Amakhosi’s emergence as a powerhouse on the arts scene in the 90s.
He is also praised for his stellar service in the private sector, taken as proof by some that artistes could lead and thrive even beyond the arts.
Recently, Dlodlo revealed on social media that he has shared a bus ride with Mhlanga from the capital to Bulawayo and rather than impress each other with tales of their old conquests in the arts, they had immediately set down to business.
“I had a very productive trip to Harare sitting with Cont Mhlanga on the bus. There was no time to reminisce . . . no time for small talk. We dived straight into umkantsho lendikimba yendaba (crux of the matter). We are both committed to restoring Amakhosi Township Square Cultural Centre,” he said.
Dlodlo also added that he would be taking up official residence at the centre, as he tried to spearhead its rebirth.
“I’ll be taking up an office there. Something is in the pipeline. We need those who are willing and able to come in let’s talk,” he said.
In an interview with Sunday Life, Mhlanga said that Dlodlo’s homecoming was all part of the centre’s big masterplan for its revival, as the erstwhile administrator would be joining other luminaries who were already hard at work restoring Amakhosi to its former glory.
In January, 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.
Visual artiste Owen Maseko is in charge of the final design of the centre while Pedzisai Sithole, now a top tourism resort consultant based in Eswatini, is in charge of the design and construction of the centre’s Great Indaba Hall.
“Its the same development of the rebirth and relaunch of Amakhosi Cultural Centre as a key creative hub player that will shape the future of the Cultural Creative Industries in the country. Dlodlo has been away in Harare for many years and also focusing on finishing his studies.
Chances are that he will be relocating to Bulawayo once more after his studies and will have more time to initiate activities that will drive creative industries in Bulawayo,” he said.
Should Dlodlo’s return materialise, it would be for the good of the centre, he said.
“It will be good for the new drive of the Cultural Centre. If he finds some time in his hands he will be able to join the amazing creative processes already happening with the likes of Pedzi and Owen,” he said.
However, with Covid-19 putting everything at a standstill, Mhlanga said the centre had to shelve a lot of its plans.
“Our development and progress timelines are messed up with this international lockdown. Right now we can’t even plan. We had just launched the Ancient City Tour Lecture Series and bookings were just starting to come in but that is now on pause. The venue had just got its first regular clients for functions and that also is suspended,” he said.
With wars raging in the country’s mines and pits for gold, Mhlanga said he had already made plans to come out of retirement to direct a play about the notorious “mashurugwi”. That too had been shelved because of the rampaging Covid-19.
“For the centre’s newly revived co-production programme I was going to come out of retirement to kick start that programme by directing a play on Amashurugwi theme here at Amakhosi for Rooftop Promotions; that too has been shelved. This year’s content creation classes have also been suspended. The Cultural Exchange programme was also going to start in April by bringing in an Ukusina Dance for Amatshitshi instructor from KwaZulu Natal in South Africa and that too has been suspended. The Outreach Programme for teenagers into Bulawayo Wards has also been suspended as the team went into its 5th Ward,” he said.
With the battle against the virus still raging, Mhlanga said the centre would now have to wait and sit on its plans.
“So yes, we already cancelled a handful of our build-up events that were scheduled to drive the development energy of the centre into the last half of the year and into 2021. The best we can do now is place everything on pause mode and wait for the right environment to start the engine all over again,” he said.