By Ismail Mahomed
South African theatre has lost one of its most remarkable talents — Mncedisi Baldwin Shabangu — a man who took to the stage and film and played every role with such absolute conviction.
Graduating from the The Market Theatre Laboratory in 1996 he went on to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award at the National Arts Festival Makhanda in 2004. He returned many times to the festival’s main stage; and mostly in Lara Foot’s plays. One of his most poignant and unforgettable roles is in her play, Tshepang.
About this role, in an interview with Classic Feel magazine he said, “hard as it is, I’m willing to sacrifice my own happiness and go to the dark places of the story.” Tshepang was a moving story inspired by one of the most tragic news events in South Africa; that of a baby being raped.
Winning a string of awards during his remarkable career and having worked with several giants of the South African arts sector and having toured extensively internationally he always remained hugely humble and passionately committed to his craft.
He was equally celebrated for his roles in film and television. Earlier this year, he participated in the Time of the Writer festival presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal to discuss his debut as a published writer in a collection of short stories compiled and edited by Niq Mhlongo. There are still so many stories that he needed to tell and perform but he is gone too soon.
Sometimes when the theatre lights fall there is just darkness … silence! Loss! Grief! We are left so much poorer by his passing. May his soul RIP.