'I had no clue what they were saying'-Thuso Mbedu on connecting with her Sotho heritage

Actress Thuso Mbedu proudly wears her culture on her sleeve.
Actress Thuso Mbedu proudly wears her culture on her sleeve.
Image: Instagram/Thuso Mbedu/emmy.photography

Two-time Emmy-nominated actress Thuso Mbedu has reflected on the times her heritage has been questioned, and reminded us of the cultural complexities within us all.

The “rainbow nation” is a melting pot of cultures, and the Is'thunzi star took to Instagram recently to share stories about her identity and proudly wearing her culture on her sleeve.

Thuso explained that her name is multicultural: Thuso (Sesotho), Nokwanda (Zulu) and Mbedu (isiXhosa), and it had taken her years to fully learn about her identity.

She recounted how she couldn't speak Sotho but had to deal with people assuming she could speak the language.

“Being in Joburg and people immediately communicating in Sesotho was always awkwardly funny because I had no clue what they were saying! It would only be when they stopped to catch their breath that I’d say 'I don’t understand what you’re saying' that they’d then snap and say 'What kind of Thuso are you?'

"(They) would want to call me 'Nokwanda' because, to them, that’s more fitting. I always declined because Nokwanda is reserved strictly for my family.”

The star also shared how she recently learnt more about her Sotho roots.

“This year I learnt that my grandfather was from Lesotho and that we still have living relatives in Lesotho. You learn something every day!” she explained.

Read her full post below:

View this post on Instagram

It’s ALL the frames for me. Random story time on HERITAGE DAY! So those who have been around me long enough would’ve heard me babble on and on about myself and this aspect of who I am but I felt like babbling to you today so here goes (the intro will be familiar to be many but there are twists in the actual story)😯 Thuso (SeSotho) Nokwanda (IsiZulu) Mbedu (IsiXhosa) 1. Being in Joburg and people immediately communicating in SeSotho for me was always awkwardly funny because I had NO clue what they were saying 😬😅 it would only be when they stopped to catch their breath that I’d say “I don’t understand what you’re saying” that they’d then snap and say “What kind of Thuso are you?” and then would want to call me “Nokwanda” because, to them, that’s more fitting. I always declined because Nokwanda is reserved strictly for my family. I WILL IGNORE YOU BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW YOU LIKE THAT 😅🤷🏾‍♀️ 2. I used to think Mbedu was a SeSotho surname until I was in high school when someone corrected me and told me it was IsiXhosa. I, at first, didn’t believe them till I found out that my father’s mother was Xhosa (he took her surname) and I was like oh 😯 you learn something new everyday. Took me that long to find out that information because we had zero relationship with my father’s side of the family. I was greatly raised by my mother’s family who are Zulu with is why I identify as Zulu. 3. I always assumed that the Sothoness from my father was like generational Sothoness, as in, maybe his great great grandfather was from Lesotho and they made their way to Southy decades ago, etc or something like that. This year I learned that my grandfather was from Lesotho and that we still actually have living relatives in Lesotho. You learn something everyday 😅 OK. The End. (I’m not proof reading so connect the dots when the English goes sideways bakithi) Happy Heritage Day to Southy Republicans 🇿🇦 Makeup by @ladylellow Dress by @bayanda_khathini_ Image shot by @elijah_palm for @72_photography Image edited by @seventwo_creative_agency (The images were cropped to fit into the insta thingamajig. I’ll put the full ones on Twitter. You should see Frame4 its fullness 😭)

A post shared by Thuso Mbedu (@thuso.mbedu) on


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