I first met Lindiwe Matshikiza in 2003 in my first year at Rhodes University. She was both striking and daunting, one of those bright lights you know are too hot to touch but you can’t stop looking at. We spent the next 3 years as ships passing each other on drunken nights. We would hoot at each other but we never really stopped for a parley. It took almost ten years to have one of those. It was after watching her outstanding play Ster City in 2013 that I felt like I should get a grip and make proper contact. Ster City, which she co-wrote and starred in with actor Nicholas Pule Welch, is traveling to over 15 African countries later this year after touring France and South Africa in the last two years. Lindiwe has also starred in the films Long Walk to Freedom and State of Violence amongst many other screen and stage appearances.
She comes from a good stock of musical, writer, poet and thespian blood. Her grandfather was journalist and composer Todd Matshikiza, who wrote for Drum Magazine in the 1950s and composed the music to the renowned musical King Kong amongst other great jazz feats. Her father was influential actor, writer, poet and activist John Matshikiza, well known for his roles in There’s a Zulu on my Stoep and Cry Freedom Hard Copy.
I went over to her Art Deco apartment block in Troyeville and instead of a typical interview and shoot, we drank gin and tonics for 6 runaway hours and I learned a few other things about her: She has a Diploma in Burlesque from Brown Girls Burlesque in New York. There’s a small movie postcard of the 1985 film Dust, in which her father starred opposite French actress Jane Birkin. The walls in her apartment are filled with so many books that she runs Lovely Lindi’s Lending Library, where she lends books to kids and teens in her building. She’s fluent in French. She can sing. Like properly. She doesn’t know this but she’s everybody’s girl crush. Here’s why:
How was your day?
So far, 9:38 am eventful and filled with small successes/failures.
A thing that you do every day without fail is have a cup of tea.
Where are you? At my table, at home, facing the city.
What are you sitting on?
A fake marble Formica kitchen chair.
What or who is next to you?
Cardboard, plastic, leather and wooden parts of a donkey puppet; some knives, some pens, music system.
What city and on what day were you born? London. On a Monday in 1983, March 28th.
Your work is play, the best kind.
Do you have a job or a career?
I have a job when I am employed, which may or may not be frequently, depending. Sometimes I employ myself, and sometimes I can even pay myself so then it really feels job like. In other words, I suppose my career is me having or making for myself a series of jobs to do with performance, directing, theatre, film, writing, crafting and music (getting there…) I feel like a career is something you reflect on later in life when you can define with clean hindsight the sprawl of a life.
Someone good that you would love to work with is: Phia Ménard
Which city do you spend most of your time in? Joburg
Your greatest achievement is propelling myself forward.
I haven’t been able to do a backflip yet.
Adults are totally overrated
Laughing hysterically is seriously underrated
Choose one: an extra 10 minutes/ one more zero EXTRA TEN MINUTES. PLEASE.
I used to worry about not achieving enough before 30.
Now I worry about the damp and the cockroaches.
My last text message was from Siya*
Joburg is kind of like the sea: Exhilarating and full of strange and wonderful life. You could gaze at it for hours. You have to be hard/brave enough to swim in it but soft/vulnerable enough to be open to tender moments. Sometimes you don’t want to touch the bottom in case you step on something weird…
South Africa isn’t all there is.
Choose one: stage or camera? I will not choose, thank you very much.
What do you do better than acting? Spelling.
How many sugars? One.
Your signature drink: Laurentina. Clara.
Do people meet you or do you meet them? Depends on the people.
Everybody knows this about me: I have big hair.
Few people know that I can comb it but choose not to.
If you were a polyglot, which 7 languages would you speak?
Xhosa, Arabic, Portuguese, Sign language, Tamil, Patois, Japanese, Russian
I miss my father.
What book are you currently reading? Rediscovery of the Ordinary by Njabulo Ndebele; Bra Gib by Rolf Solberg; In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
Your last musical discovery was?
Denitia and Sene. Because I discovered them all by myself even though I generally rely on my cool friends to put me on. And Flora Purim’s Nothing Will Be As It Was…Tomorrow because I grew up loving the record cover, and am only now really listening.
What have you learned from life so far? Friends… Friends! Friends.
What have you learned about work and working so far? Ideas are alive like people and so can also kick, shout, be moody, slouch and need love too. And there’s no harm in asking (actually learned this from Tshepang*).
Love is Music.
Describe your dream home. Spectacular view. Spacious. Lots of light. Crow’s nest.
Are you proud of yourself? Most of the time
God is LOVE. Prince taught me this at a very young age
Are you going to vote? It’s possible
Lindiwe’s latest project is called The Donkey Child and it opens at The Hillbrow Theatre this Wednesday 26 March – Saturday 29 March, 19h00. Follow The Donkey Child on Facebook @donkeychild on Twitter and @donkeychildprojects on Instagram for updates.
Photographs: Stephanie O’Connor