Given Zulu was born in KwaDukuza and is an award-winning composer, musician, producer, television and sound engineer who has worked with Amanda Black, Ami Faku, Kid X, Professor, and DJ Ganyani just to name a few.
Given went to North Coast Primary and hands them major kudos for helping him develop his skill. “I was always in choirs, I was always the guy who was part of the people who were singing and that is where I realized I could beat box.” Every class had to perform at assembly every Friday and he would always want to do something related to music.
As he grew up and his love for beat boxing enhanced, he then decided to incorporate playing the guitar with beat boxing. “My sister had a guitar and when she went to school, I would take it under her bed and teach myself how to play it. Funny enough, it made a proper sound.”
Fridays at the local library were now notorious for cyphers as Given would play the guitar and beat box, and his sounds would captivate others and inspire them to start singing and rapping. Gigs started coming and he was doing shows where he would just beat box. From beat boxing at the local library and performing at local events to now, blessing the country with his musical talents. He has worked his way up, proving to be a true musical genius.
Owing to his flair for sound engineering, the innovator has worked with and is still working with, distinguished SABC news programs like Morning Live, Kids News, Trendz, Newsroom and Health Talk, The Globe and African Perspective. His composing geniuses has also scored him the chance to compose ads for big companies such as Capitec, FNB, Momentum and many more.
With such an impeccable list of big brands neatly tucked under his belt, Given remains authentic and does not wander off from his goals. He is not blinded by the glitz and glamour of the City of Gold and remains a champion for African ethnicity that cements him to wide-ranging African music which personifies the striking narrative of one’s identity. “I love the true South African sound from artists like Mafikizolo, Johnathan Butler, Hugh Masekela and Jabu Khanyile,” says Given.
He blends new school sounds that relate to the modern music for the modern listener, without recoiling from the African traditional sound. “I call my sound ‘Premium African Music’, its royalty!” he affirms. A preview of this ‘’Premium African Music’’ will be available this month as he teams up with Kid X and Professor to release a single. It is titled Ngibonani and is guaranteed to have you in your feels because it tells the tale of the classic love story about love at first site.
Lethu Nkwanyana is an award winning poet, writer, thespian and an entrepreneur. Born and bred in Shakaville, everyone who knows him can attest that he is quite the humble young man.
He holds a degree in the field of Business and this switched on his entrepreneurship side. Over the years he has been involved in the following businesses:
- His first business was that of selling fast food at Blythedale beach with his friends Thabani Mabika and Wandile Shezi.
- Started a company with his younger brother, Aphelele Nkwanyana called Zikode General Works where they wash roofs in their neighborhood.
- Zikode General Works collapsed because they couldn’t maintain the equipment and now they provide cleaning services for SAMLOG Mining, based in Mpumalanga.
- CFO for Kmele Kwaziwe, a poetry session in Stanger.
- Co-owner of a game shop and fast food area located in Shakaville where they host FIFA Tournaments and rent out PlayStations and Xbox games.
All of these business ventures may come as a surprise to some because Lethu is mostly known for his poetry, yet even in poetry, he goes beyond and transcends the borders of art. He moved to Johannesburg to pursue his poetry career and studied Professional Acting for Camera-Performance art at City Varsity in Braamfontein. This opened a lot of doors as he is now an Art director for a private company called WaterDropStudios in Johannesburg.
On 21 June 2021, he was placed in first place at Poetry Africa. Not only will his poem Uprising be published in Poetry Africa anthology, but he also gets to perform at Poetry Africa 2021. This adds on to his lengthy art accolades which is as follows:
- He has represented KZN in Johannesburg at the Drama for Life Poetry competition in 2017.
- Made it to the Top 3 of Word N Sound Poetry League Season 10 - the biggest poetry slam in the country.
- Showcased a poem alongside a contemporary dancer at the Africa Arts Festival- Wits Great Hall.
- Featured In an International showcase called Poets in Autumn - the biggest poetry tour in the World.
- Won the South African Poetry Award for best poet.
- Participated in an American Digital Slam in 2020- Poetry University.
- Ran a poetry workshop in KwaDukuza, grooming other upcoming poets and now he is also teaching other upcoming artists in Johannesburg.
- A co-writer of theatre piece Ushanelo that had a showcase in Limpopo, The National School of Arts, Wits University and City Varsity theatre room under 4Play production.
- Has judged a poetry slam competition.
- Founder of “Let The poet speak” which is an annual poetry show, that also features other art genres.
“Let The Poet Slam” is a poetry competition branching out from the (LTPS) Annual event. It is projected to take off in the second half of 2021 and will be a poetry tour.
Besides business and art, Lethu is a youth leader at his local church. He has always been in love with leadership development. He says that his mother has been his biggest pillar and he is grateful for his family that supports his dreams.
“I want to take poetry to a higher level, awaken new possibilities and transform the way we perceive our own capabilities. I want to be an inspiration to others no matter how elusive it seems. I want to inspire those behind me while respecting those before.”
Upcoming vibrant actress Thobeka Ndwandwe hails from the small town of eMandeni. Growing up, she was always passionate about art and had an opportunity of seeing lot of things in life and that is where she says her passion for the arts stems from.
Demotivated by the stereotype and rumours that you have to sleep your way to the top, her parents were sceptical about supporting her pursue her dreams and advised her to steer into another direction. This is where she lost the passion for the arts but a few years later and she has scored herself an appearance on tv’s popular show, Durban Gen and a lead supporting role in Harken Lalela – 1976 The Musical.
Studying at Ikabawo Performing Arts Academy, she says that this school instilled discipline in her. “My school has shaped me into this person that I am today. I feel like in order for you to go far in art you have to be disciplined and Ikabawo taught me so much of that. Art requires respect, discipline and knowing what you want are the most important character traits of an artist.”
Initially Thobeka went into acting just to prove a point that she can do it without sleeping her way to the top, but now she has grown to love her craft and is what they refer to as a triple threat. “I can sing, I can dance, and I can act” she boasts. Her presence was felt the very first time she set foot at the Academy: “I remember some of my colleagues telling me much later that when they first saw me, they saw their biggest competition,” but it was not in her plans to complete with anyone, with her it was just about fulfilment. “I was just happy that I found my purpose, I found myself.”
When she worked on the Harken Lalela - 1976 The Musical, Thobeka got to rub shoulders with the likes of the talented Mam' Baby Cele, Melusi Yeni, Thandeka Zulu and Noxy Mabika. “It was so surreal and there was so much pressure on my side to do my ultimate best.” She says that she felt so much love and support from these professionals, they gave her so much advise not only career-wise but even on how to handle her finances. “I felt fortunate to be with people who have been in the industry for such a long time.”
In parting, she says that as a girl who once went to bed without eating, she wishes to reach out to other young girls and inspire them that life is much bigger than the squatter camps that they live in. “I am living proof that the universe listens to our wishes and one day, you will be just that.”
Lights, camera, action! One scroll over Kwanele Lisa Nyongo’s Instagram page and you would think that she is a supermodel!
Popularly known as Lisa, this girl is not all about beauty, she has brains as well.
A UKZN graduate, the 24-year-old Lisa holds a degree in Supply Chain Management and Marketing.
Now a social media micro-influencer, she has her sights set on being the next Mihlali Ndamase, or even soar higher than her. “I’ve always been a person that loves taking pictures and social media has been a huge part of my life. From connecting with people in different parts of the world to expressing myself by sharing pictures and videos.”
And of course, money is always a good motivation to do something. The bonus for Lisa was that she could also use her skills to get money. “When I found out I could make money out of it as my own brand, I decided to pursue it with the knowledge I gained from my degree as it also included social media marketing. Since then I have made it my passion to learn, pursue it as a career and I also hope to grow in the influencer industry.”
Thabiso Mbatha is a passionate agronomist and Candidate Natural Scientist who has worked in public, civil and private sectors within the agriculture industry. From trainee to an Agricultural Advisor, Thabiso is now responsible for providing farmers with crop protection solutions that are environmentally, economically and practically safe.
He is still regarded as someone who is new in the industry, but his achievements say that he is definitely growing to become a force to be reckoned with. Thabiso has conducted agricultural work in 4 provinces in South Africa and hopes to tap into the agricultural potential of all 9 provinces. His most memorable professional achievement was conducting, monitoring and evaluating crop production projects within the North-West Province that were awarded financial support. This was when he was still with the Department of Agriculture. This process allowed him to understand the critical aspects that lead to agricultural success and failure, as well as allowing him to contribute to curbing irregular spending of public funds.
Thereafter he “jumped into the deep-end” of entrepreneurship by establishing an agricultural consultancy and learnt vital lessons on how to go about conducting business with farmers. He is currently managing the agrochemical requirements of about 49 farmers, spanning an approximate area of 3174 Hectares, producing macadamia nuts, sugarcane, bananas, vegetables and herbs amongst others. When he is not out on a farm, Thabiso can be found jogging and reading. He also spends his time with his monthly study group that he organises for young farmers that he services. His plan is simple- to facilitate the synergistic formation of commodity-group production leading to the formation of a youth-led African agricultural supply franchise. This will be a vital step in the right direction in efforts to make farming more attractive to the youth by lowering input cost.
“When life gives you lemons, plant the seeds, select the genetically superior types and make a business around it. Remember to give some seeds back.” - Thabiso E. P. Mbatha
Mandlenkosi Nkosingiphile Shandu, popularly known as uKilla K is a 26-year-old who was born and bred in KwaDukuza, Melville. He describes himself as a huge people's person. “I believe I'm an extrovert and it’s easy to be around me because I make other people comfortable to be around me.”
He strongly believes that the town of KwaDukuza is filled with talent that just needs to be unearthed and thus, took it upon himself to do so. In 2017 he came up with this brilliant idea to start his own YouTube channel that would be a voice of the artists within the town. A first in KwaDukuza, it is called The 4450 Online and focuses on artists, creatives and influential people from all over town. On the channel, you would get an insight into the lives of the various artists that are profiled while also providing them with the right exposure. “You hear how it’s like to come from a town like KwaDukuza. I was trying to shift away from the small-town mentality that we are always subjected to because we are from KwaDukuza.”
The portal hosts 5 segments:
- The 032s Hottest MC List (hosted annually)
- 10 Minutes Sit Down with uKilla K (features various artists)
- 032S Brand Alignment Show (includes different brand owners)
- Creative Hopping (covers influencers)
- The Monthly Round Up (round up of the events in town)
The man behind unearthing young creatives is also a creative in his own right and a genius one at that. A jack of all trades- he directs, produces, edits, curates and presents everything that is seen on the channel. Currently residing in Johannesburg for work reasons, uKilla K is Journalism graduate who obtained his qualification at the Tshwane University of Technology. The young pioneer who steered the media industry of the town into the right direction is so passionate about his channel that he never misses an opportunity to record. “Every time I come back home, I make sure to do an episode or two.”
His dreams of running a channel came to life at university and even chose to major in broadcasting over print. At the moment he is a Video Editor for a production company based in Rooderpoort, Gauteng called 32Done Productions. He specifically edits promos for Starsat, a South African direct broadcast satellite television service.
He has been involved in script writing and video editing for the SABC 1 Edutainment TV Show TOMZ and edited for the SAFTA Nominated 2020 AFI International Fashion Week. “The love for TV never stopped, I’m just glad it grew with time. The 4450 Online helped me grow. It is who I am- uKilla K. Don't forget to say the K”
“Dream big” is one of the simplest and most used quotes. When one dreams, they are able to escape their harsh reality and look forward to a better future. When Phakamile Judith Zondi was growing up in the back room of her mother’s workplace in Ballito, she had dreams of protecting lives and now, at the age of 28 she is doing just that and so much more.
Her mother was a domestic worker and now she is a Constable at the KwaDukuza South African Police Services, who also has a daughter of her own and might I add, a beautiful one at that. Phakamile was born at Etete and was raised by a single parent. She completed her Matric at Shakaskraal Secondary School. Gone are the days where Phakamile would daydream about becoming a cop, now she is enforcing the law and making the streets of KwaDukuza much safer for all of us, one case at a time. . .
“Ngiytholel’ umunt’ oFresh, umuntu onjengo Nurse…”
When Mampinsta sang this line in Big Nuz’s 2011 hit single, Wayilamula, he certainly had Londiwe Minenhle Khumalo in mind. Londiwe is a 23-year-old nurse from KwaDukuza. She is one of the few people that were able to identify their purpose from an early age. “I’ve always been one person who has chosen to embrace their innate need to nurture and heal people in which ever capacity life has allowed me to.
All the choices that I have made in my life have sort of revolved around that.” She obtained her Bachelor of Nursing (Hon) Degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and has served the community of KwaDukuza since graduating in 2019. The story of her upbringing is that of a typical African child, raised by the powerful prayers of two strong black women eTete. Londiwe believes that her grandmother’s (uGugu) prayers have launched her far further than anticipated. Although serving her community as a nurse has always been her dream, it doesn’t mean that there are no challenges. It is not all sunshine and roses. “There are days where it gets tough, and I feel like pulling few hairs but that one, “Ngyabonga mntanami” from patients makes me feel like all those sleepless nights at UKZN were worth it and keeps me going.
When former Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi won the pageant in 2019, she had a very clear message for girls all around the world- take up space! Dabbling in being a radio DJ, MC, media personality and model, Minenhle Alungile Linda Jr Ntuli is certainly taking the advice of Zozi.
Born in KwaMaphumulo, the all-round entertainer needs no introduction. Minnie (as she’s popularly known), first made her claim to fame in 2017 when she auditioned for Idols SA and although she did not win, she made it all the way to the top 16 and is grateful for journey. “Idols was a whirlwind of emotions- it was challenging yet memorable and unforgettable, even life changing because honestly, how many people leave the competition and be blessed as I have been? I work with so many brands and organizations and that opportunity was because of my time on Idols so I am very grateful.” Adjusting to life after Idols proved to be smooth sailing for the bubbly personality and she does not think it has anything to do with working hard, but rather carrying out her purpose. “If I’m being honest, I don’t recognize it as working hard when you are aligned with your purpose. You want to do more of it because nothing else makes sense.” Her passion lies in cooking and radio and making her choose either is nearly impossible. “Imagine someone asking you to choose your favourite child,” she laughs. “I can’t choose one because they serve a different purpose in my life that is fulfilling. But just so you know, cooking gave me access to radio and to people’s hearts and in turn, that same radio saved me from depression.” As it is youth month, we couldn’t let the former UKZN student representative council member go without picking her brain on youth issues. Just as all quotes go, she emphasizes the importance of education. “Education, education, education. Education gives access and enlightens. There are so many gaps in the access to the “free” education that people think exist and mostly affects the black child in this day and age...imagine! education will always be number 1 to me.” She goes on to say that: “Documented history will always make the current generation look less than. So if you ask me if we are as brave as the youth of 1976 then id say no. but if you ask, are we fired up then yes because we have social media and that is our power.” The youth of 1976 died physically for what they believed in, and today’s youth dies emotionally and I cannot tell you which is worse.
Durban has Ricky Rick, Nelspruit has Costa Titch and the small town of KwaDukuza has uMshayi. Sakhile Melusi Mdletshe popularly known as Mshayi is a multi-talented 23-year-old from Groutville.
He went to Dr B Vilakazi primary school, Ashram Primary and Stanger ML Sultan where he did his Grade 12, but unfortunately did not pass. Mshayi believes that not every everyone needs education to be successful. He describes himself as a non-conformist, “I have always believed that my talent is what will make me successful, not school.” He started making music when he was eighteen years old and has consistently worked on his craft, earning him the opportunity to meet with a lot of musicians that are currently making waves in the music industry like Big Zulu, Blaq diamond, Mampintsha, Dladla Mshunqisi and Ricky Rick who happens to be his role model. “One thing that I have learnt from them is the importance of working hard and doing things by yourself without expecting any favours, independence is what they always preach.” Mshayi is an all-rounder of an entertainer that sometimes dabbles in being an event organizer, content creator, a fashion designer and sometimes even an MC. He even has his own brand called (COMBO). In this time that Mshayi has been an entertainer, the one thing he has noticed is that it may seem like it is easy to be in the industry but it’s not, one has to continuously work hard, put in your all and remain focused. “I have achieved a lot; my achievements may not be tangible things that I can wave at someone’s face as proof of my hard work but deep down I know that I have done a lot and I am proud of myself.” His one wish is to create a better life for his family and become someone that the youth of KwaDukuza look up to.