From local theatre to Netflix film: young Philippi actor hopes to inspire township youth

Bonani Ngamlane auditioned in his tiny shack for Netflix’s latest South African film The Queenstown Kings

By Qaqamba Falithenjwa

6 December 2023

Bonani Ngamlane from Samora Machel, Philippi, in Cape Town is starring in Netflix’s latest SA film The Queenstown Kings. He hopes sharing his experience will inspire youths in the township. Photo: supplied

From performing in plays at the community centre in Samora Machel, Philippi, to starring in Netflix’s latest SA show, The Queenstown Kings, 24-year-old Bonani Ngamlane spoke to GroundUp about his dream to give back to his community.

“I’ve always wanted to work with Jahmil. He [Jahmil X. Qubeka] is one of the best directors in South Africa. I did my audition from my shack here in Samora. I remember having to remove my bed and wardrobe to create space,” he said laughing.

Last week, Ngamlane and Hlubi Nontlanga, his drama lecturer from Wits University, ran a three-day project called Samora Machel Kas’lam Arts Platform (SAMI’KAP) for young actors in Philippi.

The project ran workshops mainly for youngsters between the ages of eight and 16 years.

“We want to document the kasi culture of Samora … by working with the local artists,” said Ngamlane.

“We want these kids to see that this isn’t only possible for people far away but for them as well,” said Ngamlane.

The project ran from 28 November to 1 December and ended with the children performing short plays at the Tsoga centre in Samora Machel.

Ngamlane said it’s important for young people to involve their parents in everything they do, to “make them understand your craft and your dream so that they offer fitting support”.

Ngamlane was cast as a member of the Queenstown Kings football team on the new Netflix streaming drama, released on 17 November. The show the story of 16-year-old soccer prodigy Fezile Gigaba from Komani (formally Queenstown).

The film was directed by Qubeka and produced by Layla Swart through production company Yellowbone Entertainment.

In the film, Ngamlane played the role of Qhawe Jobodwana, a member of the Queenstown Kings football team. During filming, he met established actors such as Zolisa Xaluva, Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa, Thoko Ntshinga, and Sandile Vincent Mahlangu.

He said Xaluva motivated the young actors and showed them how to carry themselves and navigate the industry.

Ngamlane was born in the Eastern Cape but has spent most of his life living in Samora Machel, Cape Town. He started his acting career at 15 when he got involved in theatre performances and joined the local drama group that regularly performed at the Tsoga Community Centre in Samora.

He said he was introduced to the professional stage through the Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter Theatre while he was still in high school.

It was through his role in a production called ‘Uloyiko’ that he started travelling, including performing in Joburg’s Market Theatre.

He is currently pursuing a Bachelor in Dramatic Arts at Wits. Ngamlane also studied at Project I AM film school and participated in the DOCi-Emerging Filmmakers Programme.

He said that his family has played a significant role in his career. “The support they have been giving me has shaped me. At times I would have to ask for money to go perform far from home and I could see they were giving me their last cent.”

Ngamlane recently started his own production company, Black Seed Productions, and has a small group of local actors who feature in plays which he writes.