(MY FRIENDSHIP WITH BALLROOM DANCER, TAXI OWNER,THEATRE DIRECTOR, VOCALIST, COMPOSER, TRUMPETER AND JAZZ MUSICIAN- PETER NTHWANE
BY FLAXMAN QOOPANE
0n 6 June 1992, I returned to Bloemfontein, Free State in South Africa after 15 years in exile in Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Italy, Soviet Union(Russia), Holland etc.
In July 1992, I was appointed as the co-ordinator of the African National Congress(ANC)'s Department of Arts & Culture(D.A.C.) in Southern Free State. I and Peter Nthwane met for the first time in July 1993, when he came to my office in Bloemfontein together with Gilbert Moshoeshoe Modise, the late poet, theatre director and novelist. Nthwane asked me to write a story about him, in the newspaper, Goldfield Tribune.
I remember after I published his story titled, PRIEST ENDS UP IN DANCING in Goldfields Tribune dated 30 July- 13 August 1993, he visited my home in Rocklands Kasi in Bloemfontein, and he really like the article about him, and he nick-named me Percy Qoboza, after the former editor of the banned( 19 October 1977), newspaper-The World. At that time Peter Nthwane worked as a taxi- owner in Bloemfontein. On numerous occasion when I was going to my office at the ANC's Department of Arts & Culture in Bloemfontein, Peter used take me from my home in Rocklands Kasi, and transported me to work. On several occasions he taught me how drive his taxi.
Peter Nthwane started his career as a ballroom dancer at Klein-Magasa Hall in Bochabela Kasi, in Mangaung in 1976. According to Nthwane, the person who taught him how to dance, it was Billie Matee, who was a professional ballroom dancer. Peter Nthwane became a professional ballroom dancer in 1979, he participated in various local, regional and national ballroom dance competitions in South Africa. Around 1980, he entered the South African Championship Ballroom Dance Competition in Umtata, Transkei( now Eastern Cape). He was one of the winners, and after the competition, Nthwane remained in Umtata where he was offered a job as ballroom dance tutor until 1986.
In 1987, he moved to Nongoma in Kwa Zulu Natal where he met Peter Mashibini, an actor and choreographer from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape who was training the youth and adults in the Performing Arts. Between 1987 and 1989, Peter was one of the drama students who learnt a lot about acting, how to write dramas, choreography and how to direct dramas/plays from his mentor Peter Mashibini.
In 1990, Peter Nthwane returned to Bloemfontein and teamed with Bambo Qongqo, Nolthukelo Qongqo,( both late), Xoliswa Qongqo, Nomkhitha Nogabe, Sicelo Mzamo, Lerato Duiker, Lerato Teronko, Alvina Dioma and Lydia Ramonare, just mention a few, and formed the SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP( S.T.G), in Rocklands Kasi in Mangaung. Peter was the choreographer and the theatre director of the group. Through his group he discovered a lot of young actors, dancers and singers in Mangaung. Together with Bambo Qongqo and Sicelo Mzamo, Nthwane wrote a drama- Suffering.
In June 1993, I used to attend the rehearsals of the drama, Suffering by the cast members of the SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP at Kagisanong Hall in Mangaung. The drama was about a student Molapo, whose parents wished him to complete matric and later would go to the university. Molapo disappointed his parents by impregnating his classmate Bonono, before he completed matric. Later Molapo fell inlove with other two girls, Nomsa and Felicia. Molapo's parents told their son to leave their home, and Molapo went to stay with a shebeen Queen, Daisy. Molapo worked for Daisy for a few months, and the shebeen Queen found that Molapo stole her money, she then chased him away.
Molapo decided to go to the City of Gold, Gauteng, Maboneng to look for work. He was employed as a cleaner, because of laziness he was dismissed from work, and he became a hobo. One day Molapo met one of his girlfriends Nomsa, in Johannesburg. She gave him money to return home, only to find new owners at their former house. Molapo was told that his parents had died. He then remembered his parents advices and tried to kill himself.
Early in August 1993, the FATHER OF TOWNSHIP THEATRE, Gibson Kente( late) from Soweto in Johannesburg attended the rehearsals of the drama, Suffering at the Rocklands Hall. I remember that Peter Nthwane told his group that it was a great honour for all of the cast members of SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP to be visited by Gibson Kente, THE FATHER OF TOWNSHIP THEATRE. Gibson Kente praised Peter Nthwane for establishing the SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP, and discovering a lot of actors, dancers and singers in the township of Mangaung. Gibson Kente said he believed that the young actors, dancers and singers should join the theatre groups in our townships as they could lead to careers opportunities.
With the assistance of local business people like Norman Mathobisa(late), Taelo Nicos Molosioa, Dr. Rantlai Petrus Molemela and Zandi Twayi , SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP was able to perform their drama, Suffering at Kagisanong Hall, Batho Community Hall, Zenzele Hall and at Paradise Hall in Mangaung. The group also performed their drama at Mmabana Cultural Center in Thaba Nchu and also at Majwemasweu Community Hall in Brandford. After these performances in Bloemfontein, Thaba Nchu and Brandfort, Peter Nthwane told the audience that he was very proud of the cast members of SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP. He said they started to act as amateur actors, dancers and singers, because of their love for the arts one day they would be professional artists. Our youth in our townships must come together and form theatre groups so that they should entertain and educate our communities through drama. Drama has many opportunities, it can enable an actors , dancers and singers to perform at places like Pacofs in Bloemfontein, the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and even at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
On 30 August - 4 September 1993, Gibson Kente's musical production, Mfowethu-My Brother which was a cast of 25 actors, dancers and musicians including Thoko Nogabe and Nehemia" Wadladla" Gopane, was staged at the Sand Du Plessis Theatre, Pacofs, in Bloenfontein. George Bosman( late) from Pacofs sent an invitation to Peter Nthwane that Gibson Kente has instructed him to invite the SIYABABA THEATRE GROUP to come and watch the performance of Mfowethu -My Brother. Nthwane and his cast members were very excited.
In 1994 as a co-ordinator of the ANC's Department of Arts & Culture in Southern Free State I left Bloemfontein with a delegation of one hundred cultural workers from Northern Cape and the Free State to attend the C.D.C. conference at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre on April 25 - May 2, 1994 .My delegation included Peter Nthwane, George Bosman, Nthako Makama, Collins Mokhoto, Papie Masia, Yster Shem, Menge Jonas and Captain Johnny Mokejane, just to mention a few. During the conference Dr. Mongane Wally Serote from the ANC's Department of Arts & Culture outlined the ANC's view on the relationship between state, and culture. I remember during the conference Peter Nthwane had an argument with Mbongeni Ngema, we were pleased that the two stars solve their problem.
In May 2004, together with Peter Nthwane and Bobby Motopi (late) former band leader of Dillo Band from Mangaung, we attended the funeral service of Mangi Lipale former backing vocalist of Thari Musical Band. He shared the stage with several musicians paying tribute to the late backing vocalist.
HAMBA KAHLE , TSAMAYA HANTLE, PETER NTHWANE, AND REST IN PEACE.