PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has led South Africans in paying tribute to veteran playwright and theatre icon Welcome Msomi, who has passed on.
Msomi (76), whose legendary work in theatre spans more than four decades, was the brains behind many productions. One of his well known works was “Umabatha”, an adaption of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which was staged in South Africa during apartheid and attracted multiracial crowds.
Msomi died on the same day as Mary Twala, one of the queens of South African theatre and mother of TV personality and mega influencer Somizi Mhlongo.
Ramaphosa said South Africa’s creative community has lost a significant treasure with the passing of playwright and entrepreneur Msomi.
President Ramaphosa said: “We have lost a cultural stalwart whose creativity gave depth, colour and lyricism to South Africa’s dramatic and complex history.
“While Welcome Msomi was exceptionally talented as an individual, he dedicated his energy, time and resources to the development of new generations of performers who would celebrate and showcase our nation’s cultural diversity.
“This investment in the future of our cultural communities is Welcome Msomi’s true legacy; one that will ensure that his inspiration lives on in his physical absence.”
In paying tribute to Msomi, the South African presidency said how creativity first came to the fore when he wrote a book at the tender age of 15. This creation gave rise to a creative career of half a decade during which Msomi distinguished himself in radio and as a choreographer and outstanding playwright who became a force in Zulu literature and South African culture at large. Early in his career he established the iZulu Dance Theatre and Music in 1965 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
He is best and globally remembered for uMabatha, his adaptation – in isiZulu and set against in 19th-century Zulu history – of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He owned his own recording label and in the latter part of his life served on various boards and was active in the public relations industry.
Msomi’s career however ended with a black mark on his otherwise sterling career. In October last year, he was convicted for fraud involving R8-million of money meant to assist artists. He was due to be sentenced in November.