Shalima Mkongi hits the big screen
The South African entertainment landscape is not only opening up the industry, but breaking boundaries this year.
Up-and-coming actor Shalima Mkongi is set to wow audiences in Showmax's cinematic debut - Rage.
The multi-talented star fell in love with acting at the age of 11 as a way of dealing with her anxiety and shyness.
With a mother who participated in pageants, she blossomed on the stage when she found escape in both acting and pageantry.
"I was elected to be in a school play and I felt an exhilarating rush and I started to be on stage the whole time. I felt validated and alive. You know when you are conscious as a child that you are alive? I felt like I only got that when I was on stage," says Mkongi.
Having struggled to find roles and honing her craft, the rapper and dancer was able to elevate her acting talent and persevere even when she was not certain she would make it in film.
Mkongi is far from a novice, having scored roles in the coming of age drama Nkululeko and telenovela iSithembiso.
In the Showmax horror, Mkongi plays Sihle, a bold fashionista who sees herself embroiled in a summer vacation gone to hell.
While playing a powerful woman is not foreign to the young actor, she was particularly drawn to being part of a horror flick as a fan of the genre and how few have been made in SA.
"As a performer, I am always looking for ways to improve my craft and that's through trying out new things; things that challenge me further. I also think we need to diversify our content - we have a vast pool of creatives [so], let's play," says Mkongi.
"I am always so honoured to be chosen to play any character, it's even better if it's the first of its kind.
"And to Showmax, thank you for opening up the industry to more diverse stories like Rage."
Preparing for her gritty role was no walk in the park as she had to look at different areas of inspiration to embody the complexities of being Sihle.
Mkongi watched popular HBO series Euphoria which deals with mental health and drug abuse, as well as Midsommar which carries similar themes with Rage.
"Sihle is very young in comparison to me, but I have siblings her age, so I really took the time to find out what interests them in this new era we're in. I had to look at what influences teenagers, how do they speak to themselves and relate to other people around them. I had a lot of fun finding her."
While becoming the character may have been a joy, Mkongi shares that the most taxing part of all was putting in the work. In an unprecedented feat, the movie was completed in just two weeks while Mkongi wished she could have had time to sink her teeth into the role.
With the flick doing its rounds on Showmax this week, Mkongi hopes audiences will welcome the different narratives and characters in the programs that they watch.
"It's okay to diversify a cast without that being the driving marketing force behind the film. Rage is a fun movie, don't forget to have fun when you're telling your stories," she says.
While the current coronavirus outbreak has affected her other plans, Mkongi has put a performance art piece on ice that will incorporate dance.
"I want to also get back to creating content around mental health through the medium of film, performance art, and my music."
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