Q&A with Niza Jay Ncoyini

Niza Jay Ncoyini is a Wits BA Dramatic Arts alumnus and is currently an actor, director, writer and filmmaker. The actor appeared in South Africa’s award winning film, Inxeba: The Wound as well as Green Matter and Hello Au Revoir. Born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape as Ndiziphiwe Izicelo Ziviwe Azamkela Ncoyini, the openly queer young black actor seeks to take over the film industry through telling stories in his own way.

What are you currently working on?
I have a starring role in a new South African feature film directed by Louw Venter and produced by Urucu Media, which will be released later this year. I’m also directing my first play While We Hate, which I also wrote. It will run at PopART Theatre in June.

What inspired your career in acting and directing?
Watching Sarafina. When I saw Leleti Khumalo on screen, I knew I wanted to perform and tell stories in the same way that she did. I’ve only been directing for a few years, so I’m really taking time to define my voice and fine tune my perspective. I want to tell stories that encourage people to be better than they are. I also want to tell stories that make all people proud to be whoever they are, because as much as I have a very unique point of view, I do want to create work and tell stories that resonate universally.

Have you always wanted to be an actor/ director?
Yes. I’ve always wanted to be a performer and a storyteller. I believe that creating art is a sacred act. There are very few professionally trained actors who are working in our industry, and it shows. The quality of our films and TV shows is a testament to the quality of writers, directors and actors that we have in the country.

What has been the highlight in your career thus far?
Being nominated for a [South African Film and Television Award] for my first role, and becoming one of the few openly gay black actors to get nominated for a performance role in a film. I was nominated in 2018 for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film for playing Kwanda, one of the lead characters in Inxeba.

What challenges have you faced as a young black gay actor in the industry?
Very few people are writing complex gay and queer characters which I would be proud to portray, so it makes selecting work really hard. As much as I pride myself in being gay, overtly so, I also resent the idea that because I’m gay I have to play gay characters. I have the know-how and the skills to step in and out of any character.

What advice would you give to youngsters who are trying to get into acting?
Know who you are and know what you stand for. Work on your craft, don’t stop taking acting lessons/coaching, no matter how successful you get. There is always room for improvement. Engage with your industry, both local and international. When you know what is happening, you know what is out there for you to go after.

Debut author wins publishing deal and R35 000

Aspiring writer finally had his dreams come true when he won big at the Dinaane Debut Fiction Awards. His first novel Dub Steps has been published and is available at Exclusive Books. 

WINNING NOVEL: Dub Steps in its published form.

WINNING NOVEL: Dub Steps in its published form.                                                                                                          Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

ANDREW MILLER was named the winner of the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award for his debut novel Dub Steps along with a cash prize of R35 000 on Tuesday evening.

“I’ve never won anything,” said Miller, trembling in disbelief.

Dub Steps has been published by Jacana Media and is also available at Exclusive Books. The award ceremony was held at the Wits Writing Centre.

He told Wits Vuvuzela the reason he writes, “For many years I wrote in self-defence – as a way of processing and understanding my place in the world. I’ve got older and realised what an honour it is for someone to read anything I’ve written. I’ve started to care much more about the structure of stories and the idea of entertaining a reader.”

Miller was 15 years old when he began to fiddle with poetry, that ‘fiddling’ turned into ‘longer form stuff’ when he was 21.

Wits Vuvuzela also spoke to Neilwe Mashigo from Jacana Media, the publishers behind Miller’s novel.

The real challenge is doing a lot of hard work alone in a room all by yourself.

Mashigo addressed the concern of aspiring writers trying to get their work published, “Unfortunately not everyone can be published, and publishers are different in what they want published. “

“As an aspiring writer, you need to research the various publishing companies and the types of books they publish. Then you need to see where your manuscript can likely fit in,” he said.

Miller spoke about the challenges ambitious writers’ face including making sure there was enough time to write, “I think the big trap is focusing on self-promotion and selling your work.”

“The real challenge is doing a lot of hard work alone in a room all by yourself.”

On the other hand, Miller speaks about not isolating yourself to do your writing. He suggests that as a writer you might have to dabble in public speaking or journalism to be able to make a living while writing, “The days of sitting along in your room cranking out novels are long gone.”

Kopano Motlwa author of Coconut is a former recipient of the Dinaane Award and her novel has been translated into Swedish and Dutch with a French translation currently underway. Matlwa’s Coconut is a set work at schools across South Africa.

The Dinaane Awards was open to unpublished English language manuscripts by debut writers, it was judged by a panel of three judges: Maureen Isaacson, Fred Khumalo and head judge Pamela Nichols.