IF you mention the name Sibonisiwe Sithole in the streets of Bulawayo, you might fail to get people who know that name.
Her name may not be popular in the city, but her works have traversed the world, earning her international recognition.
Sibonisiwe is a founder member of the Inkululeko Yabatsha School of Arts (Iyasa).
Her connection with the arts company is like that of a mother and a child.
She has seen the arts company grow from a school drama group and blossom into a professional company that has won the hearts of arts lovers and critics the world over.
Sibonisiwe describes herself as a born entertainer, a simple person who likes to be happy always and to make friends.
She was born in Bulawayo to a family of eight and is a proud mother to a three-year-old son.
When she enrolled for secondary education at Mpopoma High School, fate would have it that she would join the school’s drama club. The drama club at that time was led by Nkululeko Dube, a teacher at the school.
“I decided to join what was to become the country and world’s popular Mpopoma High School Drama club.
“I used to watch them rehearse and I immediately told myself that was where I belonged and since then, I have never looked back,” Sibonisiwe said.
But the club evolved to Iyasa and boasted talents such as Future Sibanda and Sandra Ndebele.
Sibonisiwe made her mark early in her career and she featured in many productions throughout her secondary education.
“I remember even professional groups like Bambelela Arts Ensemble would ask my director for my services and Savuka also featured me in their tour to Belgium.
“Such were my first days in the arts and at school. As a member of the school group I also toured Seattle in the United States,” she said.
While she is the queen of the dance floor, Sibonisiwe’s talent knows no bounds.
She has featured in theatrical productions such as Othello and many others in Europe.
She has worked with the famed Mbongeni Ngema, Chase Skuza and featured in Tanga WekwaSando’s popular video, Wako.
In just over a decade, her curriculum vitae is decorated with impressive accomplishments. She owes all her success to her association with Iyasa.
“Being with Iyasa has made me a better person. It’s never been an easy journey, but it’s been exciting to say the least. I believe because of Iyasa I have a purpose in life.
“The cross cultural experiences make me see the world differently from probably just a person limited to one place. I have learnt to be strong and resilient and to work hard for what I want,” Sibonisiwe says.
Her involvement with one of Zimbabwe’s successful arts ensemble has taught her to be humble and handle fame and success well.
As a global citizen, she has interfaced with different cultures and people. This has made her understand the world in a better way.
“I have realised that freedom and what it is, varies from country to country.
“I also used to believe that everyone in Europe is rich. I thought there was so much money to be made every day there, but I learnt that it’s just a myth.
“There are rich and poor people all over the whole world,” she says.
Sibonisiwe, like many of her peers who come from Bulawayo, laments the stunted growth of the arts industry in the city.
“I think Bulawayo has talent. We have probably the best, but there is no support for the arts,” she said.
“I think people look down upon the arts resulting in some brilliant talent quitting the industry.
“Even when I compare it to Harare, I think there is more activity and support there.
“That is why most of Bulawayo artistes quit or migrate to Harare, South Africa and the Diaspora,” says Sibonisiwe.
According to her, there needs to be a change in the attitude towards the arts. She urges people to support the industry, especially female practitioners.
She believes that female arts practitioners have a place in the arts and deserve the respect and recognition due to them.
“I think the most successful artistes in the world are female. Look at Zahara, Brenda Fassie, Beyoncé and the late Miriam Makeba!
“What more evidence do we need to prove that females have a place in the industry? Let’s give the girl child a chance to shine,” Sibonisiwe says.