IT all started with a dream of seeing herself in the limelight. When the opportunity came for Maumela Mahuwa (38), she didn’t hesitate to take it. It has been 17 years of watching her on SABC2 soapie, Muvhango. She opens up about her upbringing, her first experience in Johannesburg and learning to be comfortable in her own skin.
A VILLAGE GIRL
Maumela says her mother, grandmother, aunt and uncle all raised her. “I was literally raised by a village,” she says.
Her upbringing was far from perfect. Her late mother was not around much and she only met her late father when she was 23 years old when her brother had passed on. “Meeting my father was like meeting myself. I was good with knowing that I was my father’s daughter,” she says. Even though they had no father-and-daughter relationship, she says she learnt to forgive.
From a young age, Maumela had a dream of becoming a singer. “All I wanted to do was to sing like Rebecca Malope,” she says. In 2002, when the Lion King production was looking for talent in Limpopo, she took her chances.
“I was number 2 057 in line and when I went in I had a feeling I would come out with something,” she says. Veteran executive producer, Duma ka Ndlovu, was on the judging panel. “He told me to take down his number,” she explains.
But this was surprising to her because she didn’t know why her fate was not clear on the day. Maumela, who later made the call, says Duma invited her to come to Joburg.
The 21-year-old dreamer, who was open to new possibilities, left Venda for the Jozi lights. “I was terrified. It was my first time and I didn’t even know what I was here to do,” she says.
FIRST TIME IN JOZI
Maumela recalls her first time at the Market Theatre, seeing big stars live. “I will never forget that time. Seeing all these stars, I was just in awe,” she says.
Duma told her about the plans he had for her. He wanted her to go into acting. “If it wasn’t for him, I would probably be in a village with seven children,” laughs the actress, who doesn’t have children.
FINDING HER CONFIDENCE AND FAME
Maumela lacks words to thank Duma for seeing something in her that she didn’t know she had. “He is an angel. I remember him telling me that I was a beautiful African woman. I started believing this and looking at myself differently,” she says.
When she was cast on Muvhango, it was a complete culture shock as she was surrounded by people who looked, spoke and dressed differently than her.
“I felt like I didn’t fit in. I lost myself at some point,” she says. The Jozi lifestyle was a bit too much for her. “I learnt that you should be in this industry for the right reasons,” she says.
STAYING IN HER LANE
She says what has made her remain consistent is understanding herself and the journey she is walking better. “I am true to myself and my world is cleaner,” she says.
Not only has she had to find herself in the limelight but also in her private life. “I had to lose myself to find myself,” Maumela says.
If she isn’t on screen playing the role of Suzan on Muvhango, she is a pastor, a singer and does work for her film school called the African Academy of Cinematic Arts.