The house Dlodlo helped build: New Bosso CEO’s influence on Amakhosi boom

07 Apr, 2024 - 00:04 0 Views
The house Dlodlo helped build: New Bosso CEO’s influence on Amakhosi boom Amakhosi Cultural Centre stage

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter 

PERHAPS one of the few letdowns about Amakhosi Cultural Centre is that, for all its illustrious history, there is no Hall of Fame, or even a mere plaque, that lists some of the most famous names that have graced its stages. 

Once upon a time, Amakhosi was the nerve centre of Bulawayo’s vibrant arts scene, a nursery that nurtured some of the greatest arts talent that the country has ever produced. 

Edwin Hama, Beater Mangethe, Mackay Tickeys, Zenzo Nyathi, Clive Chigubhu, Babongile Sikhonjwa, Memory Kumbota are just some of the very few names that roll off the tongue effortlessly as one recalls the men and women that were nurtured within Amakhosi’s bosom.

The late Cont Mhlanga

From comedians, radio personalities to thespians and musicians Amakhosi raised them all. 

Given the fact that Amakhosi does not seem to be the reliable conveyor belt of the talent it once was, one can safely say that the centre has perhaps seen better days. 

It certainly does not wield the same kind of influence that it did when the late Cont Mhlanga was in his pomp, plucking unknown talents from the city’s dusty townships and turning them into bona fide stars.     

With that being the case, some might regard it as a shame that there’s nothing like the Hall of Fame to salute the men and women who have come through the centre. 

However, if, in another alternative reality, there was at least a plaque listing the legendary centre’s most illustrious sons and daughters, then newly minted Highlanders Football Club chief executive officer Sihlangu Dlodlo would be one of the first names written on it. 

This is surprising because Dlodlo is a name that one would not necessarily associate with the arts, especially Amakhosi. 

However, if the words of the centre’s late founder Mhlanga are to be believed, Dlodlo was the cornerstone upon which Amakhosi was built. 

“This is someone who I first met when he was no more than a boy just wearing boxers,” Mhlanga once told Sunday Life. “I have been privileged to witness his growth from that time to now. This was someone I first saw reciting poems at school. With time he became what I like to call my school of knowledge. Sihlangu was that person who you could give knowledge to and he would implement that knowledge like no one else would.” 

When one thinks of Amakhosi, they think of the major productions, the Stitshas, the Friday Night Lives or the Amakorokozas of this world. 

For Mhlanga, however, Amakhosi was not made on stage but in neat offices that served as the engine of an institution that revolutionised the arts in Zimbabwe. It was in these administration offices that Dlodlo made his name and his work there is why Mhlanga regarded him as the centre’s greatest ever product. 

“When you talk of Cont Mhlanga you’re talking about the pioneers of the arts in Bulawayo. You’re talking about the people who came when there was no road and laid a brand new one. People did not understand what an artiste was before we started defining it. So someone like me needed to be working with believers, strong apostles who believed in the vision that we had. That’s the difference between Dlodlo and everyone else. He came when Cont Mhlanga didn’t exist. Some young people haven’t known Zimbabwe and Bulawayo without Amakhosi. Dlodlo bought into the idea in its early days, the karate days,” he said.

Sihlangu Dlodlo

For Mhlanga, Amakhosi would not have achieved the renown it later got without Dlodlo. 

Indeed, for many, Dlodlo, initially a trained secondary school teacher who later on went to study for business and economic qualifications at university is regarded as the godfather of marketing in the arts. 

He would later become the marketing manager at both Baker’s Inn and Lobels, far from the world of the arts where he initially made his bread and butter.   

“He was very specific about what he wanted. He wanted to get the name of the centre out there. He wanted Amakhosi known by the city and the country. So he broke new ground because he pioneered marketing as a discipline in the arts. Even after he left to do other things he kept on planting the Amakhosi flag everywhere he went. For him, it was not about money but making a city rise. Unlike other artistes, he was not single-focused. Some just stick to acting or singing or dancing through their whole career. He saw that there were many fields in the creative industries and went into most of them,” Mhlanga said.

In an interview with Sunday Life, fellow arts veteran Raisedon Baya said Dlodlo had been an effective arts administrator because of his ability to ably share knowledge. As he crosses over to the world of sport, Baya said that this was a gift he could see him take to a different but somewhat related field.

“I think the first point I would make about him is that he is a people person. Dlodlo loves people, he loves interacting with them and he loves making them happy. He also loves helping people and for me, that is the most interesting characteristic. I think he fits in perfectly where he is going because we are always saying Highlanders is the people’s team and he is one of the best people to engage. 

“From the beginning in the arts, he was always a leader. He was a teacher and a leader and I think it’s one of the things that he is going to take to sport. He relishes the art of teaching and I know that once there he will either take charge of teaching people the culture of the club or how to grow brand Highlanders. Let’s see how he does but I am very confident that he is going to make some big changes,” he said. 

Baya said Dlodlo was the perfect marriage of football and the arts as, despite his initial romance with the latter, he was someone who always heavily fancied the Bulawayo giants and followed them closely. 

“Dlodlo has moved quite a lot in terms of the arts. He reached top levels at Amakhosi, he was the national co-ordinator of a big project as well and he went to the corporate world where he did well. So, we are excited to see a person from the arts taking a big brand to much higher levels. He’s a culture person and he will understand that Highlanders has its own culture and he will try and make sure that the club’s supporters understand what the club’s brand means. Ever since I have known him, he has always been a Highlanders fan and so I think this position is recognition by the Highlanders family that he is an asset that can grow the brand,” he said. 

 

 

 

 

 

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