Ratladi excited his acting ability is seen beyond his physical disability

Shaka iLembe actor is also a writer, theatre producer and lecturer

Actor and playwright Calvin Ratladi.
Actor and playwright Calvin Ratladi.
Image: Supplied

Actor and playwright Calvin Ratladi is on top of the world after he finally made his debut on a TV production Shaka iLembe

Ratladi, a lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) drama department, is the man behind the role of Goloza.

Born in 1991, Ratladi lives with kyphoscoliosis, an abnormal curve of the spine, and is short by stature. He has however never limited himself in what he can or can’t do.  Goloza is his first TV role after years of theatre as actor, playwright and director. 

Goloza is the first-born son of Queen Ntombazi (played by Khabonina Qubeka), the notorious witch and mother of the great and last Ndwandwe king, Zwide kaLanga (played by Wiseman Ncube).  

Because of being born with a disability, Goloza is forced to live in a cave with a zombie. The character has proven to be popular with the followers of Shaka iLembe series on Mzansi Magic.

Speaking to Sowetan, Ratladi said he was excited to have finally "made my debut on a mainstream show" like Shaka iLembe. 

“I have been waiting for this opportunity since 2019 when Angus Gibson, the co-founder of Bomb Productions, started speaking to me. I am happy it finally happened, but I don’t want it to go to my head because it might affect me as an artist.

“It was amazing to shoot the character. Bomb Productions just knows how to take someone through a journey. Angus Gibson will come to you in the morning and greet you way before you start shooting. He will ask you if you are fine and ready. I enjoyed working with them. As much as I work with popular stars... during the shoot you could see that we were all there about the craft not to influence people,” he says.

Ratladi, who has directed shows such as Nongqawuse, The Dead Chant in Death, Rhoda Miller and The Train, among others, believes that his latest character is misunderstood and misinterpreted by South Africans.  

“I am playing Goloza and I literally enjoyed playing the role. But people think that he is a zombie because of the white powder that is poured on his body. The white powder is normally used [traditionally] to prevent body odour. The same powder was used on [the zombie] Umgijimi in Isibaya.

"Goloza was supposed to be king [but] because he was not born perfect the king (Langa, his father) ordered for him to be killed. His mother, Ntombazi, found a way to raise him in the cave."

About being naked and covered only with the white powder, Ratladi said: “I have acted naked before, and I am fine with that because I have already owned-up to my body. The character is not about my body but about the acting technique. As you can see, I follow the camera with my eyes.”

TV actor and playwright Calvin Ratladi.
TV actor and playwright Calvin Ratladi.
Image: Supplied

Ratladi, who was born 32 years ago in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, promises more drama as the story unfolds and Goloza coming out of the cave.

He added that though he is keen for more roles, he does not like stereotyping of people living with disability as if they cannot be anything else.  

“I have been given roles before of a traditional healer and I have turned them down. I feel like they are stereotyping me. Right now, I am the benchmark in SA, and I want kids who come after me to know that they can play an advocate, a doctor and nurse. I work as a lecturer, why would I allow myself to [only] portray a role of a sick man for example.” 

In 2022 Ratladi received the Outstanding Person with Disability award at the South African Film and Television Award (Safta). He also has a Naledi award for his achiecvements in theatre.

The drama graduate is currently a masters degree candidate with the University of Pretoria. He speaks and acts in Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Zulu, Xhosa and English.

He has worked with William Kentridge’s Centre for the Less Good Idea. He received the first residency for creative exchange from the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg and the Teatre Lliure in Barcelona for 2021.

He is also the founder and curator of an arts and theatre festival called A Gathering in a Better World that opens opportunities for both and physically abled and disabled artists.   

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