Mandla Gaduka's most challenging role: I went home wanting to never go back

11 September 2018 - 08:00 By Kyle Zeeman
Mandla Gaduka reflects on the challenges he faced to bring strong social activism productions to life.
Mandla Gaduka reflects on the challenges he faced to bring strong social activism productions to life.
Image: Supplied/

As former Generations actor Mandla Gaduka stars in an explosive theatre production about the collision of African tradition and religion, he has reflected on a previous play that rocked his world to the core.

Mandla is currently in the production Diketso, which tells the story of a young girl who refuses to heed a call from her ancestors to become a traditional healer and loses it all including her only son. The production is written and directed by Kedibone Manyaka and is at the State Theatre in Pretoria till September 23.

Earlier this year Mandla played the role of a homeless person in the theatre production My Hole, My Home. The play told the story of two homeless men living on the streets of Johannesburg who struggle with identity, security and a sense of belonging.

"It affected me in a way that I have never felt before. It was probably the most challenging role I have taken on but it was also an eye-opener. I saw a world that I didn't know existed. One of complete hopelessness. One that was so far from my own. It's a world where you basically spend every day waiting to die."

He admitted that there were times when he was so defeated by the role he didn't want to face the emotions again the next day.

"Because of the material I would go home feeling very down and struggling. I went home wanting to never go back. I would force myself to go back the next day and feel really depressed.  But once I stepped into that world again on stage, I felt better. I felt like there was a story to tell."

Although not as emotionally taxing Mandla's new role has also challenged both society's views on culture and his own.

He admitted that as a Christian it took time for him to feel comfortable with embracing another side of culture like sangomas, trances and muti.

"I think we live now in a time of Wakanda and where being African is supposed to be pretty and glossy, but there is another side that is very earthy and bloody and very spiritual and emotive that we don't get to embrace as Africans living here. It can be scary to see people go into trances or things like that, unless you try to understand. It can be difficult to start discussions around that. But that is what we are trying to do."