SONGWRITER and performing arts legend Mbongeni Ngema of Sarafina fame has gone all out in search of young talent in the poverty-stricken townships of Durban and rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal.
Ngema is known for unearthing raw talent such as that of actress Leleti Khumalo and the late songbird Wendy Mseleku.
To kick-start his search for the most talented youngsters in the province Ngema was at Mandlethu High School in Amaoti, Inanda, last week.
His visit came after principal Bheki Manzi approached Ngema about the quality of singing and acting at the school.
Manzi said teachers at the school were dedicated in helping pupils with acting and singing, but the skills had over the years gone to waste because pupils were not pursuing the arts.
He said the poor background of most pupils at the school made him worry that they would end up working for retail stores or being unemployed though they might have obtained good matric pass marks.
In the 1990s Ngema was the man behind the successes of many young girls in the Sarafina cast - a film about the apartheid era and a number of young people who died fighting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at schools.
Ngema said he was amazed by the talent he saw during auditions at the school.
"After having seen the talent here I am overwhelmed," he said.
"This is the kind of talent that was about to get wasted if there were no leaders at schools like the principal here who approached me to go back to where I started off, by taking young talent and nurturing it into something big and wonderful.
"The pupils that made it through in the auditions will receive a recording deal with KZN Music House, and I am sure that this is going to be the beginning of great things."
Nkwanyana sisters, Zandile and Ntombikayise, were some of the gems that overwhelmed Ngema.
"We are passionate about gospel music and are excited that we will be working with Ngema," said Zandile.