Project Description

Nokugcina Elsie ‘Gcina’ Mhlophe born in Hammersdale in 1959 is a well-known South African freedom fighter, activist, actor, storyteller, poet, playwright, director and author. after completing her matric at in 1979 at Mfundisweni High School. She did a Cadet Journalism course at the Rhodes University, 6 months Film Making Course as part of Interchurch Media Programme’s Community Project and Part-time news reading for the Press Trust, BBC Radio, Africa Service and between 1982/83 she was writing for the Learn and Teach magazine.

She does her most important work through charismatic performances, working to preserve storytelling as a means of keeping history alive and encouraging South African children to read. She tells her stories in four of South Africa’s languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa.

Gcina Mhlophe has appeared in theatres from Soweto to London and much of her work has been translated into German, French, Italian, Swahili and Japanese.


  • 1983 Lead actress in Umongikazi – The Nurse by Maishe Maponya, later touring England, Ireland, Holland and Switzerland.
  • 1984/85 Acting in the workshop play The Black Dog – Injemnyama, directed by Barney Simon, touring South Africa
  • 1985 and 87 – 89 Writing and acting in the autobiographical piece Have you seen Zandile?, touring South Africa, Lesotho, most of Europe – participating at the Edinburgh festival. Mounting the piece as a Visiting Director at the Chicago Theatre Co. and at Knoxville’s Carpet Bag Theatre in Tennessee with different US. actors, who later went touring USA.
  • 1986 Acting in the workshop play Born In The RSA, directed by Barney Simon, touring South Africa, England, most of Europe and the US. Participation at the Edinburgh festival.
  • 1987 Visiting assistant director with Barney Simon at Boston’s Brandeis University, workshoping and staging the musical play Written By Hand.
  • 1989/90 Resident Director at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. Co-writing and singing in the musical Inyanga, directed by Barney Simon. Writing and directing Somdaka, touring Johannesburg’s Townships and Zimbabwe.
  • 1995 Co-writing an adaptation of Brecht’s The Good Person Of Sechuan with Janet Suzman for BBC, London and the Market Theatre, Johannesburg
  • 1998 Wrote and performed in the one woman show Love Child, by Mannie Manim Production. Took it to Japan to the Solo Festival in Tokyo

Theatre Awards 

  • 1987 OBIE Award as best actress in Born in the RSA – New York
  • 1987 Fringe First Award for best production of Have You Seen Zandile – Edinburgh Festival
  • 1988 Joseph Jefferson Award as best actress in Have You Seen Zandile – Chicago
  • 1988 Sony Award nomination for best production of Have You Seen Zandile – BBC Radio Africa

Mhlophe has travelled extensively in Africa and other parts of the world giving storytelling workshops. Currently, Mhlophe focuses on making books available to poor South African rural communities by making sure that libraries are built, and making sure they are stocked with locally and culturally relevant books.