“If you can still breathe you can still fight — keep your head down, and keep firing.”

Mduduzi Vincent Nhlapo


Arts & Entertainment

Organisation / Company

The South African State Theatre


When he was in high school, Mduduzi Vincent Nhlapo, 33, was told by his principal about Aubrey Sekhabi, director of the South African State Theatre, also known as “The Great”. Equipped with a vision, Mduduzi worked himself to the bone to be like this man. He is now the assistant director of the same theatre, where he works alongside the person he looks up to — some dreams do come true. He worked so hard, juggling academics with the professional space, that he recently realised that he was suffering from “the monster of career fatigue”.

To rekindle his energy, he’s embarked on a new path that includes getting enough exercise, sleep and meeting new people. He’s also earned to “trust the process” rather than being solely focused on achieving results. The multi-award-winning playwright, choreographer and director believes that theatre should be used for social regeneration. Part of his responsibilities is developing community outreach programmes, and he’s working on promoting street theatre in the townships to preserve heritage, create jobs and foster awareness of theatre. He sees theatre as an instrument that can heal our social ills, while simultaneously fulfilling the role of entertainment.


  • BA Honours (Drama and Film Studies), University of Pretoria
  • Studying for an MA, University of Pretoria


I have dedicated my life since high school and through university to being the artistic director of the biggest theatre in the Southern Hemisphere — the South African State Theatre. I’ve reached the culmination of my dream, which makes this part of my life a great milestone. I’m the associate artistic director of the South African State Theatre today, and all this happened due to my willpower and determination.

I have learned that once your sense of direction and advocacy is clear and strong, with determination and living a life of purpose, everything pyramids to the vision. I have also learned to be process-driven rather than results-oriented. I feel that trusting the process opens up possibilities for new avenues.

To be a multi-award-winning playwright, choreographer, and director as a youth and to have taught in three universities to share my skills and valuable experience is such a huge achievement for me.

Among others, I’m the recipient of the eTV award for best production and director under “social activism”; I’m a Naledi Theatre awards winner; and I won Best Public Performance from the National Institute of Human and Social Sciences.

All of these are proud moments as a passionate contributor to the arts sector in South Africa.


When I was in matric, my principal asked me if I knew someone called “the great”, but at the time I didn’t know who it was. He then said I reminded him of that person, who studied in the same high school about 20 years ago. That communication with my principal was the genesis of my vision as a boy who grew up in the township. I said to my principal, “I’m going to be in that man’s office soon. I will be the artistic director of the SA State Theatre”. It gave me a figure to look up to, and today I work with “the great” Aubrey Sekhabi, director of the South African State Theatre.