Mandla Ngcogwene is a South African talent with multiple abilities. He is an actor, writer, movie producer, and musician popularly known as Mandla N. He is also one the most prolific and progressive creative entrepreneurs in South Africa at this current time.
The multi-talented creative is the co-founder and creative director of Black Brain Pictures, a well-known multimedia communications company. His company has been creating some of black South Africa’s most popular and favorite soap operas, including the award-winning women prison series, Lockdown. Mandla N has been the creative brain box behind most of Black Brain’s productions, and his creative genius is why he is seen as one of the most successful black producers in the country.
Mandla N Came From Humble Beginnings And Had To Chart His Own Course
Mandla N was born in rural Soweto, South Africa. And although we know he was born on April 9, his exact year of birth is unknown, which makes it all the more difficult to ascertain his exact age. However, it is speculated that the entrepreneur may have been born anytime between 1979 and 1982. Mandala is very private about his early life and family background – also, his parents’ names are unknown. He has talked a lot about working very hard to make his way in the world, so it is safe to say the millionaire producer came from humble beginnings. There is no record that shows if he had any siblings.
His Adventures in College Prepared Him For His Life’s Work
He attended the De La Salle College, a Johannesburg missionary school located in Victory Park, Gauteng, and he matriculated in 1999, after which he transferred to AFDA, a University for creatives with notable alumni, including Shekhinah, Thapelo Mokoena, and Vuyo Dabula. He graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Directing. He most notably won the AFDA award for Best Screen Actor during his time as an undergraduate. Mandla and his then-girlfriend and schoolmate, Tumi Masemola, co-founded the music band called ‘Gang of Instrumentals.’
Mandla’s musical background had a lot of influence on how the actor cum director viewed his fellow humans. He revealed this in an exclusive interview with SCREEN AFRICA in February 2020. He said that being a member of a musical group required him to travel a lot for shows and concerts, which exposed him to a plethora of South Africans, people of diverse cultures and habits that he ordinarily wouldn’t have met if he hadn’t moved around so often. The director also took numerous acting classes and performed a drama on different stage theatres. He referred to his Gang of Instrumental days as a mind-opening experience.
His Rise to Fame and Relevance
Mandla N began his career in entertainment as young as 19. His first stint as an actor in the series, City Ses’la, which aired on SABC1 from 2005 to 2010. He showed how versatile he was as he played the comedic role of Themba Khumalo, and ever since then, his growth has been stratospheric.
He has, however, achieved more fame as a movie director. Some of the movies he has directed include Culture Shock, Crowning Miss Soweto, The B-Ball Show, all of which were aired on SABC1. For Mzanzi Magic, his directing credits include Plastic Money, Van Toeka Love, Jozi to Kapa, and the viewers’ delight, Lockdown.
Mandla has attributed his success in directing to his uncanny ability to tell any story. And not just telling it, but telling it authentically. Most of his movies are directed towards the Black South African audience. He says there was a huge vacuum he noticed ever since he was a young adult, which was the lack of proper representation of black South Africans on the big screen. Mandla then took it upon himself to bridge this gap by telling these cultural stories the way only a black South African could.
He also says that his acting background was a fertile ground for his directing talents to mature. Mandla knows his craft; he understands performance, delivery, and clarity of purpose. As an astute businessman, he also understands his audience. He knows their hunger, and he feeds that hunger by depicting his stories as close to reality as possible, without any unnecessary embellishments or glamorization. One of his most notable works as a movie director is Diep City, which follows four young women struggling to survive at all costs, even at the expense of their consciences.
In an interview with DRUM celebrating 100 episodes of Diep City, Mandla N reflects on how hard he had to work to pull off a show as big as that. The show’s predecessor, IsiBaya, was the first black telenovela to air on Mzansi Magic and thus, left very big shoes to fill. He had to pull a lot of strings – resources, star power, and tons of creativity – to pull off a show worthy of the people’s attention.
Mandla N Co-Founded Black Brain Pictures in 2004
Not too long after he graduated from AFDA, Mandla teamed up with his then-girlfriend and bandmate, Tumi Masemola, in 2004 and founded Black Brain Pictures, the production giant. They both ran the company together until Tumi resigned in 2017. Now Mandla handles everything, making both the business and the creative decisions.
He has spoken about Black Brain Pictures a lot, and he reveals that the company was created primarily to level the playing field between the white producers and the black producers in the industry. He also has spoken passionately about creating as many employment opportunities as possible for black South Africans passionate about art.
There is hard work involved at Black Brain Pictures, however, as Mandla maintains a very corporate and professional work environment at all times. He has often said that his goal is to create structure, roots, safety, and security for black artists. And that is what comprises Black Brain’s legacy.
How Massive Was Mandla N’s Masterpiece – Lockdown TV Series?
Mandla keeps outdoing himself with every new movie he directs – and the TV series, Lockdown, wasn’t an exception as it kept South Africans locked to their TVs. At the 2019 SAFTAs, the series won five major awards, including Best TV Drama, Best Achievement in Scriptwriting, and Best Achievement in Make-up & Hairstyling.
The story’s premise is based on the happenings that occur in a women’s correctional facility set in Thabazimbi. Mandla N has stated that inspiration for the series stemmed from a strong desire to demystify prisons, especially women’s prisons. The series is five seasons long and was initially aired on Mondays and Sundays on Mzansi Magic. Now it’s available for streaming on Showmax.
What makes Lockdown so riveting is its clever storytelling. Mandla has always insisted on sticking to African authenticity as much as possible. This could be tricky because too much Africanness is often seen as undesirable in the international scene. However, Mandla N skillfully navigates these murky waters and successfully strikes a balance between having a unique storyline and evoking powerful emotions in viewers. Watch out for the cliffhangers; they will leave you hooked.
The Story Behind Mandla N and Tumi Masemola’s Love Affair
Who wants the perfect love story anyway? Definitely not Mandla and Tumi; they’ve had enough. The pair called it quits after almost 22 years of friendship and 16 years of living together. The reason for their split is rumored to be infidelity on both sides. They fended off the rumors about their dysfunctional marriage for years until late 2017 when the marriage broke down completely.
It came as a shock to most South Africans when they split up because both Mandla and Tumi had previously done everything together; from forming bands to founding companies down to making babies, they had been inseparable. Later that year, Mandla was said to have filed an R2.2 million lawsuit against Tumi for unauthorized withdrawals from the company account. It is believed that they eventually settled their differences amicably. They now co-parent their two daughters.
Mandla Is Not In Any Known Relationship At The Moment
When asked about his current relationship status in an exclusive interview with ZAlebs, Mandla replied that he was single. He also talked about the hassles of relationships, complaining that people weren’t always who they appeared to be. It seems like the eligible producer intends to take a hiatus from any relationship that is not kids and work-oriented.
However, Mandla has sparked dating rumors with singer and actress Nelisiwe Sibiya. The actress immediately cleared up the rumors, stating that he was her mentor and nothing more. Mandla also took to social media to confirm that he wasn’t in a relationship at the time.
For someone who intended to focus on only work and kids, Mandla does give mixed signals as he was seen flirting with actress Zola Nombona on Instagram. The mother of one posted a birthday message calling him ‘King’ and professing ‘mad love’ for him. There has been no confirmation or denial of a romantic relationship by any of the pair. We are almost certain that this information won’t stop the ladies from checking out for him. So get ready, Mandla, prepare to be snatched!