Zuma's daughter in 'wonderful' festival debut
President Jacob Zuma's daughter made a shocking discovery at South Africa's National Arts Festival this week as she prepared to perform her first major role.
Having shorn her hair, she looked at herself and gasped: "Oh my God! Oh no! I have my father's head"!
Following her soap-actress elder sister Gugu - who plays Lesedi in the local soap Isidingo - Thuli Zuma, 24, stunned critics with a "breakthrough performance" in the one-woman show Tin Bucket Drum in Grahamstown.
She is the third of four children of Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the South African minister of home affairs.
In a play about the importance of freedom of speech - even in the most remote rural Zulu village, where it is set - Thuli plays a young girl who defies a corrupt dictator by breaking his decree against dance and music, and speaking out against his government.
She told the Sunday Times she was immediately confronted with the "tough part" of this freedom this week when she heard "nasty, unfair" jokes about her father in comedy acts at the festival.
"I knew what was coming and I braced myself, and sure enough, the attacks came, belittling him - they were nasty, unfair, not nice," she said. "But I didn't walk out."
Thuli also cut short any suggestion of parallels between her play and criticism of the president, saying: "My dad was democratically elected, and is the biggest proponent of (freedom of speech)."
Critic Christina Kennedy echoed other rave reviews of Tin Bucket Drum: "Zuma shines in a wonderfully intuitive performance." Others said Thuli had launched a theatrical career which could go "all the way".
The president saw Thuli perform live for the first time last month, when Tin Bucket Drum was on at the Catalina theatre in Durban. Before the show, Thuli was overheard on her cellphone backstage, yelling at "Daddy" for running late "again".
Writer Neil Coppen said her father gave a standing ovation, but said it was "surreal" having the president visit the small venue with "peeling paint", after a thorough security check by police.
Thuli said: "He knew it was my first big-deal show so he made the effort to come; I wanted to make him proud, and I think I did okay. He couldn't stay after the show, but he congratulated me about it a couple of weeks later."
Born in Liverpool, England, while the Zumas were in exile, Thuli came to South Africa as a four-year-old in 1990, and later attended Pretoria Girls High.
She said she decided on an acting career at the festival in 2003 when, as a matriculant, she watched Andrew Buckland's "stunning" performance in The Well Being.
"Shame, my mom of course wanted us to be doctors, and all she got was a bunch of BA students!" said Thuli.