BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
HUNDREDS of people among them artists, friends and government officials converge this morning for theatre doyen Continueloving “Cont” Mhlanga’s send-off memorial services at Bulawayo Amphitheatre and Amakhosi Township Square.
The award-winning playwright and founder of Amakhosi Theatre succumbed to pneumonia on Monday morning at United Bulawayo Hospitals.
He was 64.
The official programme starts with a send-off memorial service at 9am at Bulawayo Amphitheatre to celebrate Mhlanga’s life and honour his contribution to Zimbabwe’s arts and culture and beyond.
A family service will also be held at Amakhosi Township Square.
From Bulawayo Amphitheatre and Amakhosi Township Square, there will be a drive through Bulawayo central business district before the funeral cortege proceeds to his rural Lupane home for burial on Saturday morning.
A man of many talents, Mhlanga was granted a State-assisted funeral by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in recognition of his contribution to the creative industry.
The honour has, however, attracted mixed feelings among creatives and citizens.
Many, from political leaders, creatives and art promoters among others, believe Mhlanga deserved a national hero status because he was not an ordinary playwright and director.
His successful career in the creative sector was driven by pure talent and his prowess pointed to a character who deserved hero status.
No doubt, Mhlanga was a visionary and pioneer who spearheaded many projects in the creative arts industry.
He established Amakhosi Cultural Centre in 1982, a centre which started off as a youth karate club and turned semi-professional in 1988.
He created the first pilot centre, the Amakhosi Performing Arts Workshop, which performed plays produced, written and directed by Mhlanga.
In 1995 Mhlanga established the country’s first privately-owned cultural centre popularly known as the Township Square Cultural Centre.
Away from theatre, the decorated Godfather of arts, Mhlanga published three books and wrote more than 20 plays.
Mhlanga also fiddled in politics, forming Zapu 2000, serving as an independent councillor in Lupane during the country’s government of National Unity in 2008.
His achievements, include a 2002 civic honours award given in recognition for his role in the development of Bulawayo theatre.
Together with his Amakhosi Cultural Centre, Mhlanga received several awards in honour of their outstanding achievements in the field of culture development.
In 2015, Mhlanga and Amakhosi received the Prince Claus award, named after Prince Claus of The Netherlands.
In 2021, Mhlanga was one of the legends who were given honorary awards by the National Arts Merit Awards as part of Zimbabwe’s 40th Independence anniversary celebrations.
As a man of many jackets, Mhlanga had recently ventured into broadcasting, sitting on the Fairtalk Communications board that gave Bulawayo its first private radio station, Skyz Metro.
He was set to launch free-to-air television Keyona TV.
Mhlanga is survived by wife Thembi Ngwabi and six children (three boys and three girls).
Mourners are gathered at House number 488 Nguboyenja, Bulawayo.
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