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Phumzile Mtshali, the only daughter of the legendary actress, Dr Thembi Mtshali-Jones expressed her sincere gratitude to the Durban University of Technology (DUT) for conferring her mother with the honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Visual Arts and for honouring her with a Celebratory Dinner.

She was speaking at the lavish dinner hosted by DUT at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Durban International Convention Centre (ICC) on Wednesday evening, 20 July 2022. Prior to the dinner, on Wednesday morning, the DUT Chancellor, Ms Nonkululeko Nyembezi conferred Dr Mtshali-Jones with the Honorary Doctorate during the Celebratory Autumn Graduation held for the Faculty of Arts and Design, also at the ICC.

“I would really like to thank DUT for honouring my mum while she is still alive. This has allowed her to be able to celebrate her achievement with the people that she loves,” said Mtshali.

She shared how she admires her mother’s courage and strength to persevere through hardships, stating that she has been with her through it all. In addition, she wished her mother long, successful years.

The Honorary Doctorate recipient took to the stage to reiterate her excitement for being recognised and acknowledged for her contribution in the world of arts. She also pointed out that she is aware of the weight and responsibilities that comes with it. She first gave a brief background of her upbringing and the challenges she faced after having a baby at a young age.

Dr Mtshali-Jones shared that she first worked as a domestic worker in order to support her child. She indicated that she would sing while doing her house duties until one of her bosses recognised her talent. Apparently, it was one of her bosses who spotted an advertisement for acting auditions and alerted her. She said this led to the start of her acting career.

“I used to sing while I worked and this always impressed my employers. I was the entertainment at their parties and family gatherings. One day my madam came across a callout for auditions for a theatre show at the YMCA. She encouraged me to audition and I didn’t even know what an audition was but nevertheless I was a good singer. To my surprise I landed a role in the show which later would kick start my career. I never thought performance, arts in general would be a means of living, a career, something people dedicate their lives to. It was not any easy dream to chase,” she said.

Her advice to the guests was to give gratitude to the storms they face while in pursuit of their dreams, as it is these challenges that will define, teach and prepare them for the life they are meant to live.

“This Honorary Doctorate is not something that I take lightly. I will strive to live up to it and be the deserving recipient. What an incredible journey it has been. I come from very humble beginnings, I was born here in Durban during a heavy storm. My 16-year-old mother nearly drowned trying to cross over a river to go to King Edward Hospital so she could give birth to me in a safe environment. That 16-year-old girl is now 89 years old and she sitting right there,” she said, also giving recognition to her mother for all the sacrifices she made as a young mother.

The other speakers at the event included the DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, DUT Chief Information Officer, Dr Progress Mtshali, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at DUT, Professor Sibusiso Moyo and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning at DUT, Professor Nokuthula Sibiya. These speakers shared their excitement in welcoming Dr Mtshali-Jones DUT family. The Programme Director was Mr Alan Khan, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at DUT.

Speaking on behalf of the Imbewu: The Seed crew which was also present at the event was Mr Duma kaNdlovu, the show’s Executive Producer. He applauded Dr Mtshali-Jones who stars as MaNdlovu on the show for her hard work throughout her acting career. He spoke about her consistency and dedication to performing arts.

The DUT Drama students also showcased their singing and dancing talent to the guests at the dinner. Meanwhile the Imbewu: The Seed crew that attended the dinner sang to the guests in celebration and support of their colleague. The moment became even more special when Dr Mtshali-Jones joined in the singing, leaving the guests highly entertained and enjoying the pleasant night.

Pictured: DUT Chancellor, Ms Nonkululeko Nyembezi with Dr Thembi Mtshali-Jones at the Celebratory Dinner.

Simangele Zuma

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