WATCH | These performers are playing their most memorable role off-stage

As performing artists, Mandisi and Liso Sindo are masters at playing the part. Yet when the couple is out of the spotlight, their true roles are even more impressive.

In the heart of Khayelitsha, the duo train youth in theatre, music, and dance, empowering them to make their mark in the arts.

But with the advent of COVID-19, their students were no longer hungry to learn, just hungry.

South Africa had enforced a stringent lockdown, preventing many people from earning an income and leaving families without food.

Stepping off the stage and up to the plate, Mandisi and Liso are filling their community with the nourishment and support to carry on.

Raised in Khayelitsha, Mandisi and Liso experienced a lack of creative spaces for aspiring black artists.

To provide youth with the opportunities they never had, they founded KASI RC Shack Theatre.

“It was our dream to open an art school in the townships because we saw a need for it,” Liso says.

Today, the couple mentor more than 80 students, and assist unemployed youth in acquiring jobs, internships, and collaborations in the industry.

For many of these kids, the centre is not only a place to explore their passions, but a second home.

“We are always there for them when they need anything,” Liso says. “Even food.”

Households in Khayelitsha were severely affected by the nation-wide lockdown, with many of their students going hungry.

“They always came into our house to ask for something to eat,” Liso says. As the aching stomachs amplified, they knew they had to act fast.

Without hesitation, the pair converted their theatre into a soup kitchen. What began as an effort to feed these kids turned into a programme that now serves wholesome food to more than 300 people.

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If they’re not feeding their neighbours, the couple are handing out protective masks and hand sanitisers to residents, or helping children study while their schools remain closed.

“We are doing the work to create a strong bond with our community,” Mandisi says.

While they continue to make the arts accessible to underprivileged youth, they’re enriching the lives of others in any way they can.

“When our people are happy, then we are happy,” Mandisi says.