Lebo Mashile


Thato Tsotetsi

Thato Tsotetsi - former contributor to Artsvark. Author of The Pink Gospel blog.
Thato Tsotetsi

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Lebo Mashile
Lebo Mashile

An award-winning writer, television presenter, actress and activist, Lebo Mashile is a South African household name who is most recognizable for her lyrical and gutsy poetry which has captivated audiences in 23 countries around the world. Mashile is a widely sought after social commentator, speaker, performer and compere whose infectious enthusiasm is infused into every platform she has touched over the last 15 years. Mashile’s passion for the arts and social justice is evident in her prolific body of work. For the past four years, she has co-presented Great Expectations, South Africa’s premier pregnancy and parenting show. Mashile is a co-founder of Feminist Stokvel, a collective of black women writers who create fun, interactive and informative public platforms that explore issues related to intersectional feminism.

In August of 2015, Mashile was invited to share the stage with writer, activist and 2015 Ruth First fellow Sisonke Msimang at the annual Ruth First Lecture, and together, they delivered an electrifying performance that went viral on the interwebs. http://www.journalism.co.za/blog/ruth-remembered-race-talk/. No stranger to controversy, Mashile’s spirited analysis of racism in South Africa on the popular debate show The Big Debate also went viral in South Africa and in the United States last year. http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/05/30/youve-ever-heard-someone-unjustly-talk-reverse-racism-see-south-africans-response/.

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Mashile toured South Africa in 2015 with Moving Into Dance Mophatong in a collaborative piece co-created with renowned choreographer Sylvia Glasser titled Threads. The hour-long theatrical experience fuses poetry, music and contemporary dance. Threads has been previously been staged at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, the Harare International Festival of the Arts, the State Theatre, JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, and the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State to rave reviews.http://www.thejournalist.org.za/art/lebo-mashile-weaves-her-remarkable-magic.

Mashile is an ambassador for “ZAZI – Know Yourself”, a campaign that encourages young women to draw on their inner strength, power and self-confidence. From 2010 to 2014 the poet served as an ambassador for the Film and Publication Board’s “Say No To Child Pornography” Campaign, a role that saw her traversing the country to explain the dangerous modern minefield of online sexual predators to high school learners. Mashile has acted both on stage and on screen. In 2014 she played the lead role and also co-wrote material for the stage adaptation of Pamela Nomvete’s autobiography titled Ngiyadansa. She had previously collaborated with Nomvete in 2003, when the latter gave Mashile her very first acting break in a theatre production titled Roses and Angels which ultimately led to her being cast in the Oscar nominated film Hotel Rwanda. Mashile performed at the National Arts Festival once again in 2008 in the stage adaptation of K. Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams.

To date, the poet has authored two books. Her poetry collection In A Ribbon of Rhythm (2005) won the 2006 NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa. The jury characterised her poetry as being of “a distinct oral flavour, developing oral poetry and performance beyond the boundaries of the poetry of the era of resistance”. In 2008, Mashile published her second collection Flying Above the Sky.

Mashile captured the national imagination as the presenter of the television programme L’Atitude, a concept that she co-executive produced with Curious Pictures. Throughout its three seasons (2004-2007) and seventy-eight episodes she introduced the viewers to the personal stories of a diverse cross section of South Africans as she travelled throughout the country. The series reached an audience of over two million households and was nominated for two South African Film and Television Awards.

Mashile has received numerous awards. In 2012, the poet won the Art Ambassador award at the inaugural Mbokodo Awards for South African Women in the Arts. Mashile was cited as one of the Top 100 Africans by New African magazine in 2011. Mashile was also named the Woman of the Year for 2010 in the category of Arts and Culture by Glamour magazine. Mashile performed at the Opening of Parliament in 2009. In 2006, 2007 and 2009 she was named one of the Top 100 Youth in South Africa by the Mail & Guardian. In 2007, she was the recipient of the City Press/ Rapport Woman of Prestige Award. At the end of 2006, Mashile was named the top personality in television by The Star in their annual Top 100 list. Mashile performed poetry at the Presidential Inauguration of former president Thabo Mbeki in 2004. Mashile holds a BA in Law and International Relations from the University of the Witwatersrand (2001). She lives in Johannesburg.

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