Alice’s Nakhane Mavuso is Madonna’s second favourite artist
It has been three years since musician, actor, author and model Nakhane Mavuso (30) was sent death threats by a group of Xhosa men from the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape, his home province, making it difficult for him to tour for shows or come home for a visit.
The multi-talented local is now sitting pretty in the United Kingdom, signed with BMG London, on the verge of releasing his second album, touring the world including a November tour to South Africa and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Madonna, Glenn Close and Elton John.
Mavuso, formerly known as Toure, is the lead actor of the controversial cinema movie aptly named Inxeba (The Wound), a love story set in the backdrop of the isiXhosa initiation custom in the mountains of the Eastern Cape. His role as a Xhosa man in a white production was widely considered as a betrayal by Kings, men and cultural ambassadors who claim that the custom must always be kept as a secret. The King of amaXhosa Zwelonke Sigcawu publicly interdicted the screenings of Inxeba.
“Inxeba is an important film for many people and I don’t regret a single moment of being a part of it. Although, the death threats made it hard to return to the Eastern Cape”. Born in Alice, raised in Mdantsane and spent his teenage years in Port Elizabeth, the actor’s debut movie was shortlisted for the best foreign-language film at the 2018 Oscars.
Mavuso shot a film in Los Angeles called Two Eyes which will release next year. He is featured in the modelling campaigns for Dr Martens and a Gucci fragrance. He acted in John Cameron Mitchell’s Anthem: Homunculus podcast musical with Glenn Close.
This November he is coming home with his new album tour, ironically titled You Will Not Die Tour, sponsored by an international whisky brand. The South African Music Award-winning Nakhane will perform at three intimate shows in Durban, November 28, Cape Town, November 29 and Johannesburg the next day.
“We’ve played in every continent except Asia and travelling the world is incredible. These songs are about South Africa and South Africans are incredible audiences. They get involved in the show. You feel like you are collaborating with them on the spot. I love that about them. You can expect sweat and feelings,” he enthused.
“My new album You Will Not Die excavates my religious upbringing, personal conflict with religion that was incompatible with my queerness, and my periods of depression and anxiety. But there’s also love, joy and self-acceptance on the title track, in which I realise that despite the traumatic events I have been through, I will survive,” he said.
More difficult was Nakhane’s growing awareness of his sexuality because of his family’s Christianity was becoming increasingly hard line: “The older I got, we became very staunch and more conservative. At the age of 19, I came out, to the consternation of my church and family, who decided that my ‘sin’ could be prayed away – like if you have Jesus in your heart this is a temptation that you can learn to live without”.
However, Nakhane realised that his sexuality could not – and should not – be denied. He renounced his Christian faith after a dream which inspired his new album. “One night, I dreamt a voice gave me a date, that of my death. Suddenly, having forever lived in fear of divine punishment, I was certain I wasn’t to die the next day or even ten years later. It was incredibly freeing. I decided to catch up on lost time, to finally live my life.”
He was spotted performing in an acoustic competition in Johannesburg by the boss of a record label who signed him. In 2013 released his much celebrated first album Brave Confusion. In 2015 he published his first novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues, about a relationship between a young man and an uncle whom he discovers, is in a same-sex relationship. Set in his hometowns of Alice and Port Elizabeth, it portrays a Xhosa royal family. It was nominated for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and the Etisalat Prize for Fiction.
He was not raised by his biological parents. For the first five years of his life, he was moved around the Eastern Cape, mostly raised by his grandmother. He has met his father only twice and lived with his mother for a year when he was six, but said it didn’t work out.
“My aunt and her husband adopted me and they became my parents for the remainder of my life. It was never forethought, but life made it that way and as traumatic as it became when I was growing up, now when I look back, I’m so much happier – I prefer that I was raised by my aunt.”
His experiences have turned him into a vibrantly creative artist destined to push pop’s boundaries. “I remember being young, black and queer and having no-one representing me in the world ever, you know? So, if my album can do something like that for someone, then my work is done.”