Simphiwe Dana is a Xhosa singer and song-writer in South Africa. Due to her unique combination of Jazz, Afro-soul, Rap and Traditional Music, she has been hailed as the “new Miriam Makeba”.
This isn’t her first film role. Simphiwe made her acting debut when she appeared in Themba in 2010. She returns to the big screen as Nozizwe in the flick Joko Ya Hao. The character is modelled on the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as part of a Being Mandela project.
Simphiwe found the character relatable, due to having spent some time with mama Winnie. “As a village girl coming to the big city for career opportunities and to influence the political landscape I could relate to my character. This is my second role and it’s been incredible to journey back into this art form,” she says.
Joko Ya Hao tells the story of a Christian woman who came from the village to seek help for her oppressed people in the ’50s. Fond of acting, the 38-year-old finds similarities between acting and singing on stage.
“On both aspects you get to go deep within yourself and find that persona you need to be when called upon to do so. You completely lose who you normally are and assume another personality.”
The Eastern Cape-born singer says she enjoys the escape that both crafts give her. “It is a form of escape I most enjoy. I love the challenge that comes with it.”
Simphiwe says she enjoyed the innocence and vulnerability of Nozizwe. “Her quiet, stormy demeanour is electrifying, her love for God and the people. How she tied all that into her politics and speaks of a God of love and justice, a HOD of the downtrodden and poor.”
Simphiwe says the film and her role put her “smack bang in the memories of those freedom fighters who were brutalised by the apartheid state.”
Directed by Mmabatho Montsho, the film also features established actor Jet Novuka and Sibulele Gcilitshana.
“It’s been a joy working with such talented and humble individuals. I have learnt so much from them and people should watch this movie because it is an important part of our story,” Simphiwe says.
“Finally we’re telling our own stories ourselves which means there’s very little risk of misrepresentation. Plus, I’m happy we are finally telling the stories of our women freedom fighters. Too many times we put men in the centre of it all.”
Currently putting the final touches on her upcoming album and planning for the Symphony Experience, Simphiwe hopes people get to see a different side to her.