Bright star both on and off stage

Gillian McAinsh

MTHATHA-born actress Nambitha Mpumlwana wears many hats – philanthropist, a charity patron, small screen star and more – but she will be donning a businesslike hat next weekend when she addresses a women’s leadership dinner in Port Elizabeth.

Born in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, Mpumlwana grew up all over the Eastern Cape but at age 13 left South Africa to live in Canada, where her mother had gone to study. She trained in music, film and theatre and only returned to South Africa in the mid-’90s.

Mpumlwana was raised by her grandmother while her mother was in exile and for many years saw “Gogo” as her mother.

“When my mother returned I continued to call my granny mother and my real mother sister.

“This continued until somebody told me the person I called my sister was in fact my biological mother,” she said.

Her beloved grandmother died in 2009 and left Mpumlwana with a deep respect for the power and value of extended family, particularly grandmothers.

Mpumlwana’s charity organisation, Bridging to Dawn, works with orphaned and vulnerable children. She also adopted the Canadian cause, the Great Granny Revolution, as her social responsibility investment.

Mpumlwana says grandparents slip into the parents’ role but receive very little support as it is expected of senior citizens by society.

“The Great Granny Revolution is a movement that supports Aids orphans who are raised by their grandmothers. These women are struggling to raise grieving grandchildren following the deaths of their parents,” she says. “I believe we all have a responsibility to give young minds an opportunity to a future filled with positivity, whether a child has or hasn’t got biological parents. My commitment to these families is to improve their quality of life in whatever way I can.”

Her visit to Port Elizabeth will also focus on leadership and, apart from her acting and presenting work, she is also a shrewd businesswoman.

Mpumlwana runs a voice training institution that specialises in African voices from all over the continent, offering professional voiceover casting services.

She has worked extensively in television, with starring roles in the series Yizo Yizo, Justice For All, Interrogation Room, Shado’s and The Lab.

She has made guest appearances on numerous television shows including Generations, Joburg Blues, Isidingo and 7de Laan, and joined Generations to play the role of media mogul Mawande last year. She also presented the SABC2 shows Lebone and Practical Parenting, as well as the SABC3 show, Money.

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