Nhlanhla Ngema

Age: 56     Languages: Zulu, English, Ndebele     Height: 1,57     Shoes: 7    Waist and Shirt: 34 and large

Nhlanhla’s first professional production was Sarafina in 1987. He starred as Stimela Sasezola in both the original Broadway production and the movie version alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo and John Kani. He held principal roles in other productions including Magic at 4am, The Best of Mbongeni Ngema, House of Shaka, Asinamali and many more.

In 1997, Nhlanhla was amongst the select few South Africans who became part of the cast of Disney’s original Broadway production of The Lion King in New York, which won six Tony Awards including Best Musical. He was one of the lead singers in this production.

Nhlanhla appeared in Nigel Noble’s documentary, Voices of Sarafina, with the Sarafina Broadway cast. During 2004, he collaborated in writing music for Thomas Allen’s documentary 12 Disciples of Nelson Mandela in New York.

As a backing vocalist, Nhlanhla has worked with many world renowned musicians such as Third World, Ziggy Marley, Michael Bolton, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mbongeni Ngema, Hugh Masekela, Lebo M and many more.

His directorial debut was with Duma Ndlovu’s Bergville’s Stories in 1995. He went on to direct Woza Albert in 2002 at the La Mamma Theatre in New York. In 2008 he was part of the creative team that developed a musical theatre production The Lion of the East, which celebrated the life of ANC stalwart Gert Sibande. He was thereafter appointed Assistant Director of the production during its run at the Emalahleni Theatre as well as the run in Mbombela in 2008 and 2009.

In December 2009 he was once again appointed as Assistant Director to Mbongeni Ngema during a run of Lion of the East at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban. In 2010 he was appointed Assistant Director of the Playhouse Theatre’s World Cup Production of Ingqayi-Ingqayi. This role was followed by a position as Assistant Director for KZN Music House Concert celebrating its first year of operations at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban. In early 2011 he was Assistant Director in a production of Mbongeni Ngema’s Stimela saseZola, also at the Playhouse Theatre.

Nhlanhla was also Assistant Director in the production of “The Zulu” which toured South Africa and Scotland in 2013 and 2014.

In 2006 he established Keeloz Entertainment, now known as Keeloz Arts Academy, as a means of training and developing artistic talent in Middelburg, Mpumalanga. As a result of this initiative he developed an amateur musical theatre production called The Spirit of the Dancers about the sinking of the SS Mendi. This production made such an impact that the Academy was often requested to stage it at various Provincial functions. Nhlanhla is currently working on redeveloping the work as a professional production.

In 2015 continuing on the work of the Academy, Keeloz Arts Academy produced and presented the Botshabelo Cultural Festival at the Themba Senamela Stadium in Mhluzi, Middelburg. The festival served as further training for students of the Academy and it was also an opportunity to develop further skills in the performing arts. The aim of the festival was to create awareness within the community about the endangered heritage site that is the Botshabelo Museum. The festival had the effect of encouraging the Steve Tshwete District Municipality to strengthen its efforts in rebuilding Botshabelo as the tourist attraction it once was.

In 2016 Nhlanhla had the pleasure of participating in the Gauteng Province’s Ishashalazi Community Theatre Festival as an adjudicator. A role he thoroughly enjoyed and which ensured that he contributed to the foundation of South African theatre.


As a performer Nhlanhla was featured in the Castle Lager Inqaba commercial in 2012/2013.

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