Actress Brenda Ngxoli on her small-screen return
Actress Brenda Ngxoli (39) has opened up on why she took a break from the entertainment sector for seven years before, hitting the small screen again, with a role in Mzansi Magic’s Ithemba.
She had left the showbiz because she wanted to become a ‘sangoma.’
When she quit the industry, the development got people talking, some alleging she was broke, others saying she was angered by something into quitting.
DRUM magazine spoke to the actress about why she took such a long break, and she was happy to set the record straight.
“It’s funny seeing those stories about me as I didn’t leave because I didn’t have money, or because I was angry with the industry.
“I didn’t leave because of an alcohol or drug problem. I followed my heart for my own physical and spiritual growth,” she said.
Explaining her return to the small screen with a slot in Mzansi Magic’s Ithemba, she joked: “I didn’t sleep for this role or bribe anyone, and I don’t judge people who do, but I always audition for my roles.”
Brenda plays Nomonde, a woman who is kidnapped by a gang operating on the land that belonged to her late mother and was left in her name. The cult members want her to give them the land.
“The storyline is about the unspoken world of dark forces and light; it’s not comedy-driven. It also came at a time when spirituality is at the top of my mind. For the first time I’m doing something because I want to. It’s everything I’ve learnt about spirituality,” she said.
Meanwhile, the award-winning actress is not in the habit of shaking hands or hugging anyone who greets her. Instead, she claps twice and says ‘Camagu’ as a nod to her ancestors. “Yes, I went through the sangoma initiation process called ukuthwasa,” Brenda said.
Though she didn’t want to say much on the topic, she expressed pleasure to have had answered the call. “I encourage people to explore our African spirituality. I believe we all have those senses, but some choose to exercise them at church because we’ve been conditioned that way,” she added.
Her process to becoming a sangoma is one of the reasons why she left Johannesburg. “Things were going well for me and I was happy. But it got to a point where I questioned my being and my origins,” she said.
She needed to refresh her mind and refocus. “The Eastern Cape has always been close to my heart. Growing up in front of the camera wasn’t easy, I needed to cool my head,” she explained.
For her friends, it seemed a bad idea, for someone like her to quit at the time her career was on the rise, but, Sorenda packed her bags and headed home to Xolobe. “I yearned to see those hills of the Eastern Cape. And there was no amount of money that could satisfy that yearning,” she said.
She made the best use of her savings and royalties, and with her first paycheque from SABC1’s Tsha Tsha she built her mother a house. “And with the money I got from the show Home Affairs I bought furniture. I was always working for a home,” she said.
Brenda revelled in small-town life. “In the city we call it being green but, in the village, agriculture is a way of life. If you don’t have a kraal, your neighbours look at you in a funny way,” she explained.
For her, rural life is enjoyable in that when you want meat, you don’t necessarily, need to visit a butchery. “If a chicken or a goose looks at you funny, you slaughter it,” she said laughing. “You don’t starve in the village. When they say your life is in your hands, it’s not a lie.”
Almost at this time Brenda said she was contacted by several production houses with job offers, but she had always made excuses. “If it wasn’t about bad network signals, it was money problems. I would lie because I didn’t want to be rude, but I really didn’t want to come back. I had told myself I was done with acting,” she said.
She enjoyed waking up in the morning to the sound of crowing roosters and touring around the land that belonged to her forefathers. Were it not for the producers who pasted her to come back, she was not ready to exchange her peaceful village life for a city life.
“It’s all because of [producers] Percy Vilakazi, Phathu [Phathutshedzo Makwarela] and the Fergusons – they brought me back,” she told DRUM.
Percy, convinced her to take on the role of Dambisa Dikana in The River. “They transported me to Johannesburg, which was very costly. I don’t know what motivated them because I was really not up to it, but they were persistent,” she said.
When she set her foot back into the ring, Brenda realised how much she’d missed acting; “The bug bit me again. I had a blast there.”
And as much as she loved the rolling hills and peace and quiet of home, the bright lights of the big city beckoned.
“I had to love me and put Brenda first. I decided to put on my weave and head to Johannesburg. Now I’m in the city full-time,” she added.
She is quite aware that her followership on the Fergusons may not be popular.
The couple recently came under fire when veteran actress Vatiswa Ndara penned an open letter to minister of arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa. In the six-page missive, Vatiswa gave reference to an offer made by Ferguson Films, owned by seasoned actors Shona and Connie Ferguson.
She spoke of actors who were bullied and intimidated while working in hostile conditions where producers prioritise profits over the welfare of the cast and crew members.
However, a month before Vatiswa penned her letter, Brenda thanked several producers, including the Fergusons, for her role in Rockville.
“After I wrote that post I was accused of singing for my supper. It’s fine, let me sing, but I will forever be grateful to them,” she told DRUM.
The money she was paid from Rockville, she used to buy water tanks back home. “If you decide to take that one cent, be responsible for taking it. Because you have a choice,” Brenda added.
With 18 years in the industry, she knows challenges encountered in showbiz is and how tough it can be to survive, but she chose to focus on the positive.
“Once you start viewing things with a negative eye you won’t see good in anything. There are places we can improve, but I am so over the whining,” the actress went on.
Regarding how she would celebrate her 40th birthday next year, Brenda jokingly said; “I wouldn’t like to be 45 sitting at some bar looking for a man.”