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Talking to a Modern South African Woman
by Birgit Schrumpf

A very beautiful young woman greets me in the foyer of the Hyatt Hotel Hamburg. But first she needs some coffee as she only arrived yesterday after a long flight from Johannesburg via Dubai. “But maybe it’s because of the trip to the Reeperbahn,” she laughs.

I am talking to Lerato Mvelase who played the role of Lillian, the sick and dying mother of Chanda, in South Africa’s praised feature film Life, Above All. Despite her young age of only 28 she was totally convincing in her first movie role. Lerato is not new to the film industry but is a well-known TV actress. Since 2005 she appears regularly in the successful series “Home Affairs.” Excitedly she tells me that she had just received a phone call informing her that she is nominated for an Emmy award.

She speaks beautiful English which is not her mother tongue as she is a Zulu, born and raised in Soweto. As Soweto is such a melting pot of different tribal groups the mutual language of the township is Soto. For the film made on location in Elandsdoorn, 200 km north of Johannesburg, she learned Pedi so that she would speak the same language as her film-daughter Chanda.
This enthusiastic young lady started acting at the age of five, playing an angel at her kindergarten. She took drama classes at Wits University and after completion was immediately engaged by the TV station CCM1. Now she runs her own company Lelu Productions which takes her around the country performing “industrial theatre”.  What is “industrial theatre”? The performances help the often illiterate country folks to understand the importance of water and how not to waste it.

Our little chat soon had to come to a close as her press agent rushed her to the next interview appointment.