The journey that makes me who I am

0 - 18 Durbs

Born in the tropics of Durban on18th August, a lion by birth, horse by Chinese derivation. As a toddler, mother ill for many years, I was nurtured by my beloved grandmother and two domestics, Mavis and Beatrice. Living close to the beach, brown as a berry, cropped hair and fluent in Zulu, people thought I was their 'ntombazana' – little girl in Zulu. The family relocated to Cape Town when I was four where I dropped the Zulu, never grasped Afrikaans, cracked pine kernels and played Brownies under the oaks of Table Mountain at Rustenburg Primary School until ten, when my parents, brother and sister, returned to Durban for my father to pursue his practice as a Plastic Surgeon.

Colonial English 'Durban Girls College' (originally 'Durban Young Ladies Evangelical Collegiate Institution') planted the seeds of choir and choral verse. I don't know whatever happened to all these young 'gels' ladies we were supposed to be because they all seemed to end up pregnant or on drugs". An erratic scholar, either flunking hopelessly or excelling brilliantly, I failed standard eight then skipped standard nine to matriculate from Damelin College with Mercantile Law and Economics.

18 - 22 UCT Studying BA at University of Cape Town (UCT)

"I quite enjoyed Greek and Roman Literature and Philosophy but I was a hopeless scholar back then."

J.M. Coetzee was my English tutor. Now that his literary achievements are so famous I wish I'd paid "more attention. He was angry with me for not trying hard enough. He thought I had talent. After only one academic year, I changed direction to do Performers Diploma (Hiddingh Hall Campus) training under the tuition of Professor Robert Moore, Prof Mavis Taylor, Robin Lake, Gaye Davis, Jacqui Singer, Peter Krummeck, and briefly Tessa Marwick, amongst others. A decision that would affect the rest of my life. I broke for a year to attain an ATCL (Associate Teachers from the College of London) through Catherine King Theatre School in Durban, studying under British immigrants, Brian and Lynn Darnley, then qualified with a Performers Diploma from U.C.T. in 1976.

I performed in Cape Town essentially at the Space, Baxter, and the (then) State theatre, Nico Malan, before returning to Durban to be close to her family after her father died in 1980.

1980 - 1984 UKZN University, KwaZulu Natal

Welcomed back into the Durban Theatre fold, I successfully supported myself with theatre, cabaret and children's productions whilst studying Psychology and Sociology at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Seriously influenced by sociologist lecturer and political activist Fatima Meer (under house arrest at the time) and trade unionist Mike Morris (later detained) I boycotted working for provincial Councils, which at this point did not accept black company members. With Apartheid at the height of its power and the entertainment industry already a ruthless profession, if you were English speaking career options were severely limited. I did not speak Afrikaans - the language of the oppressor - and Broadcasting stations and provincial Councils were government-controlled. Not prepared to be a puppet of the state regurgitating popular overseas works or pretty little sitcom dramas in complete denial of South Africa's imbalances … In those days, if you were at all politically conscious, you didn't come whipping out with your tap shoes doing 'Grease' 'West Side Story' or 'Chicago'. Work was scarce. Lives were wrecked careers were put on hold. Eventually I left Durban, University, family and budding recognition to broaden my horizons, and moved to Johannesburg, to the so-called 'city of gold'.

1982 - 2010 Egoli City of Gold

I wanted to connect with a big city, a more alternative, vibrant culture doing indigenous works, reflective of our brutal realities. But I fell flat on my face. Within a turbulent political backdrop, working for creative genius Barney Simon or the Market Theatre was at a premium.I did some fleeting work for the Market but regrettably never worked, directly, for Barney, although he mentored a couple of shows that I was in. There was a time when we did try to connect everyday, but there was only one Barney and everybody wanted a little piece of him.

In those days, unless you wrote your own material there was very little work. We all had to learn. I didn't even know I could be gifted that way. Even if we could write we still had to find a theatre or venue that would put on the show. Actors and artists were often hounded or tear gassed out and there was always the threat of being banned or detained. But we stood together on those stages, black and white. Torn professionally, between the will to work and the need to resist Apartheid, I sometimes sang in clubs, sometimes waitressed in them, and inbetween times I wrote my own material as much as I could. But mostly I became one of the casualties of the war and fell through the cracks.

Most notable Jozi Productions:

1984 - Mixed Blood' written and directed for the Women's Festival … a play about relations across the colour line and abortion (both illegal at the time)
1986 - Rock with the War', a cabaret with lyrics and compositions by myself and Cathy Zerbst
1988 - 'The Last Trek' a futuristic look at South Africa, workshopped and written by 7 dynamic women; Vanessa Cooke, Charlotte Butler, Irene Stephanou, Janice Shapiro, Jazmine Pippa Dyer, Louis Saint Clare, and Terry Norton, directed by Clare Stopford.

Thereafter I broke minimally into television, then it all fizzled out …

I think the last audition I went to was when I was 27, at the SABC. There were 300 applicants for a singing, dancing, acting role of a 21 year old. (I only looked 16 at the time.) We were all put into different rooms and at each phase they cut out 50%, until eventually we were down to two; myself, a peaches-and-cream-auburn-haired-somebody, and a beautiful blonde. Guess who got the role! They came into my dressing room and said, 'You're too old!' It was then I just thought stuff you all, I don't need this.

1990 - 1991 Movies and Mayhem

After a brief stint behind the scenes on movie sets, I met and married publisher husband, a South African man of Indian, Muslim descent, had a child in 1992, and became submerged in a world of profoundly life-changing events. …

I did not emerged on stage or screen again until 2004, when Dorothy Anne Gould from The Actor's Centre jolted me out of hibernation …

1991 - 2004 Profoundly Life changing events

After becoming ill with tick-bite fever on a movie set, I became too weak for the long hours of film crew work and took a desk job at The Mail and Guardian (then Weekly Mail) the most revolutionary English newspaper in the country, astutely critical of the Apartheid government. With well-developed communication skills, I was allocated to the Marketing, Advertising and Sales department. This was where I met the Bang Bang Club photographers and married into a different culture, had my name changed from Pippa to Jazmine (Yasmin) on my wedding day and was converted unknowingly to Islam.

After my child was born, I free-lanced in marketing and advertising, worked on exclusive environmental campaigns such as The Green Pages. Then was consumed by Media development organizations such as the Film and Allied Workers Organisation (FAWO) and Performing Arts Workers Equity (PAWE). In 1996, I opened my own crewing agency, Ekhaya Crew Centre, starting from scratch with no investors, and facilitated essentially black crews into the South African market, then a predominantly white film industry.

It has been noted by crew members still working in the industry today that it was "Before it's time … In 1996, wow, that's sad …

1997 - 2004 Publishing

July 1997, I was co-opted to do a Feasibility Study for my husbands company, STE Publishers (Science, Technology and Education) on the viability of disseminating an educational newspaper 'The Educator's Voice' to 250,000 previously disadvantaged members of Sadtu (South African Democratic Teachers Union). It is still in circulation today.

Thereafter I teamed up in partnership with STE where I remained for about 7 years. During this time, in capacity as Marketing Director, I helped build STE from a three-person concern, working from a back yard garage, to the multi-million rand concern that it is today. Proficient in Management, Sales, Marketing, Communications, Training & workshops, Human resources and Event organization, I negotiated with Corporate executives, NGO'S, unions, small businesses, academic institutions, and Corporate Social Investors, including dealing with protocol of top officials from Government and parastatals.

I often used to favour actors for sales work because their communication skills are so developed and they're often out of work! I remember once quite a well-known actor worked for me and she went out to a client to sell them a black and white ¼ page ad and came back with a double page spread! I was tickled pink!

During this time I still managed to find time to raise a child, edit a book written by Nanette Adams, Afternoon Tea in Heaven, as well as survive and recover from the emotional backlashes of apartheid explored in my work "The voice beyond the Veil'.

In May 2003 I sold my shares to my partner, Mr. Reedwaan Vally and left the company in order to return to my real passion – stage and screen.

"Publishing was his dream, not mine. I'm still working with stories. I'm just telling them a different way"

2003 - 2007 Renaissance

For 14/15 years I had not emerged on stage or screen until Dorothy Anne Gould from The Actor's Centre jolted me out of hibernation for a staged reading of Marat Sade. Nobody was more shocked than I when I actually landed the role of Simone next to Anthony Coleman's Marat. Dorothy's readings are like full-on productions and I regard Anthony as one of the best actors in South Africa today. This unleashed a creative monster in me … I couldn't wait to see what the next project was going to be.

The next project was "The Voice Beyond the Veil" - a story based on my own unusual circumstances addressing the world of Islam, drug addiction, and the effect that Apartheid had on my life. At a workshop at The Actor's Centre in ohannesburg 2004, Gavin Hood taught me that, (quote, unquote) 'Acting is the one profession in the world where baggage is good!' "I cherish his advice! He gave me permission to take my damage and turn it into something great. Now I have a wonderful wealth of people in my rich tapestry of life to shape my acting and writing pool of experience. I also did the same internet Screen writing course that he did, suggested by him and started wirting the screen play, Yasmin a South African Story.

2005 - Driven to re-connect with my theatre roots, original training, skills and passion, I needed to buff up for performance, took up singing again, started tap and jazz classes, joined a Latin and Ballroom Dance Studio mainly doing Argentine Tango, I call it my renaissance. And after approximately 15 years of dormancy, cataclysmically re-emerged as an Actor and Writer at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in July 2005 with a one-woman show, The Voice Beyond the Veil directed by Lynne Maree.

2006 - The whole experience was over-whelming during which time I was invited to perform at the Cape Town Festival, March 2006, where this time I was funded by the National Arts Council of South Africa.

2007 - Performed at the Wits Arena Theatre, directed by past Durban connection Sarah Roberts.

I think I'm a far better actor this time round because in my journey I've now met doctors, lawyers, fundamentalists, government officials, business execs, hobo's, and the heartless. In my twenties I had this existential fear … of everything ... the unknown. Now I come from a place of knowing … real knowing. Fortunately, I messed up so badly I now have magnificent baggage from my colourful past. Notice I choose to call it 'colourful' rather than 'checkered'!

2008 - 2009 Glitch in the Program

Dreams of a career in the arts again thwarted by the recession for one scarey moment I even joined a Property Company (as was my mother's profession). Even though I won the Rookie of the year Award, it couldn't deter me from submitting and being chosen for a scriptwriting course in 2009, run the the NFVF. Thereafter co-opted into the Sediba Scriptwriting program run by Thandi Bewer and Julie Hall (both my hero's and mentors) it has started a new love affair in my life … Screenwriting.

2009 - Chosen for the Script Institute program that year, run by Niccola Rauch, a number of scripts have been started ... and a new phase in my career dawned …


Until recently I lived in Observatory, Johannesburg with husband, 18 year old son, Zain, thorough-bred German Shepherd, 'Max of Kanwerud', an albino cat called 'whitie', a rottie pup 'Ziggy' (my fav), a travelling mountain dog mix 'Dube', and a very vocal African Grey parrot - called 'Budgie' …

May 2010 - relocated to Durban to swim in the ocean again, reconnect with family roots, continue writing scripts, and continue the creative journey …