Former soapie actor Pepi Khambule has ruled out a return to the small screen and set his sights on developing South Africa's next storytellers. Khambule is best known for his role as Prince Dingaan in Backstage, and portrayal of John Khumalo, an HIV-positive abusive husband in Anant Singh's Oscar-nominated film Yesterday. By Mtho Dube
Khambule is the director of a non-profit organisation (NPO), Khamoja Heritage Foundation, which teaches youth nationally, in rural, shack dwellers' and township communities, about the film industry, and particularly the art of reinventing story in film.
"When you travel the country, you see the ignorance (about the film industry), and young people desperate for jobs. We were able to sit down and say: 'There's a lot of money coming from corporate, but is the money getting to the core of the problem black communities are facing?'
"We came up with an idea to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities through skills, education and social development by means of film and television technology," he said.
One of their most recent projects was the Hekau Arts and Sciences National Campaign, which trained young people to write screenplays.
Such efforts are bearing fruit, with a group of emerging story writers from Nkomazi in Mpumalanga saying their storytelling dream was closer than ever, thanks to the foundation.
Sanele Mnisi, 21, of Ntunda in Nkomazi, said it seemed a far-fetched idea to get into the movie industry, but that changed after getting involved in Khamoja's workshops. "We're on the verge of doing a film, Knowing Your Origins."
The National Lotteries Commission has funded the NPO's activities to the tune of R1.3million.
This month, Khamoja is set to hold workshops countrywide. They will run until September and be followed by the Zambezi International Film Festival.
Khambule called on the corporate sector to partner such initiatives and ensure more jobs were created.