Nyaniso has built a reputable career on stage, on television and in film. His roles as Muzi (Hear Me Move), Tsietsi (Ashes to Ashes), MJ (iKhaya) and Bongani (Unmarried) won the hearts of many and showed his impressive range as an actor, but there is more to the actor than what meets the eye.
By: Thanduxolo ‘’Thandz” Buti
Nyaniso is a multi-faceted man. We may have become acquainted with him through film and television, but the entertainer has long been a prominent figure on theatre stages.
He currently plays one of the leads in the theatre production Nailed, at Market Theatre.
What you may not know is that the star is also an acclaimed dancer and choreographer.
He studied contemporary dance at Wits University and has collaborated with award-winning choreographer extraordinaire, Gregory Maqoma. His impressive dancing skills have seen him tour numerous countries and choreograph a few productions.
The self-proclaimed “Wizard of Art” pulsates with passion and prides himself with using his craft to help heal humanity.
He is also a trained emotional clearing practitioner and is committed to helping men face their pain and vulnerabilities. He founded a support group for men, Vela Tata, a platform he uses to help reconnect men to the power of their hearts.
In-person Nyaniso is no closed book, he is brazenly transparent.
The entertainer’s life story reads like any other story of an artist in search of themselves through art, while also trying to make an everlasting impact in the industry.
He takes us deep into his life journey and unveils another character worth admiring.
Blacklight: You are currently part of the theatre production ‘Nailed’, which is an adaptation of Niq Mhlongo’s book ‘Soweto, Under the Apricot Tree’. Can you tell us about that?
Nyaniso: This has been a wonderful story to tell. Niq was part of the process, and we also went to Niq’s home in Soweto and sat under the apricot tree where he often sits and gets all the inspiration for the stories that he pens.
He told us that when he wrote the story he was invited to Mpumalanga to a book launch.
When he got there, a lot of people asked him, “How did you know?” and he responded, “How did I know what?” And they replied, “That story you wrote is something that really happened here.”
He didn’t even realise that some of the stories he receives are so universal and relevant to things that are happening in our country, now.
And I love being able to tell such stories that are relevant and important to people.
BL: You are a multi-disciplined artist. How do you navigate the different spheres with such grandeur?
N: I have learned through this process of Nailed to open myself up more and almost be childlike. As an artist, you have to be open to relearning because sometimes you forget, and you also learn some bad tendencies along the way.
TV and theatre are different and sometimes when you’ve been doing a lot of TV, you can take some of the TV tendencies into theatre, vice versa.
Michael Cain, an English actor, puts it so well, he says: “The only difference between TV and theatre is that the other is bigger and the other is more intimate, but the genuineness and authenticity of what you play needs to always be there.”
That has taught me how to apply myself in both spaces, and as much as I keep doing it, I constantly need to remind myself of that principle.
I also have my brokenness and wounds that need healing, so I always know that when I tune myself to the underlying feelings that need to be addressed by the character, healing happens for me and whoever receives it. – Nyaniso
BL: You say that you are “a great lover of stories that heal broken mindsets.” What exactly does that mean?
Nyaniso: Generally, every human is wounded in one way or another. My biggest drive as a storyteller is to heal, because I am a healer, and I have decided not to separate the two worlds. I have this strong gift of being an actor and entertainer, so why can’t I heal while doing that?
I always take roles that intrigue me then I look at how I can bring some sense of healing through the character, or allow the character to catalyse healing for me.
I also have my brokenness and wounds that need healing, so I always know that when I tune myself to the underlying feelings that need to be addressed by the character, healing happens for me and whoever receives it.
BL: Your role South African dance flick, “Hear Me Move” introduced you to a wider audience. How did that character impact you?
N: That role helped me address my daddy issues, because it was about a young man discovering the world without the guidance of a father figure.
It felt like his story was mine because my father was also absent while growing up. My mom was not a big fan of him because of some of his life decisions, which had a great impact on us.
Even today, I am still healing those wounds of having an absent father, but that role definitely opened that door for me to begin the healing process.
BL: As a boy from the Eastern Cape, what gave you the courage to pursue the arts?
Nyaniso: I was born in Johannesburg, I stayed with my mother and then a year later I was sent home to Queenstown where my other three siblings are.
My mother left home at the age of 17; because of the apartheid hustle, she came to Johannesburg to become a domestic worker. But every time I was in Queenstown I would get sick and she would send for me to come back to Johannesburg.
She would send me to doctors then I would be fine. But when she would send back home I would be sick again. Now, I believe it was my ancestors or God intervening and laying down my higher purpose.
Eventually I moved permanently to Johannesburg and I got the privilege of getting the best education.
I have heard stories of parents not approving when it comes to their kids pursuing the arts, but for me, it didn’t take much courage to pursue acting.
My mother was just happy that I wanted to further my education after high school, even if it meant pursuing the arts. I was truly blessed to have that privilege.
BL: How did you fall in love with acting?
N: I would say that in some way acting chose me. When I was about eight or nine years old, I wanted to be Michael Jackson, because in school they made us watch a Michael Jackson concert in our music class.
I wanted that magic and power he seemed to have. I later realised that I couldn’t be the man but I could be myself.
I really got into acting in Grade 11 when our history teacher told us about her mom, a theatre teacher who came in seasonally to our school to stage productions.
She explained that her mom was struggling to get people to audition for a production she was staging that time, which happened to be Grease.
At that time, I knew nothing about Grease, but because we loved our teacher so much, I went and auditioned.
The role involved two things that I loved, singing and dancing, but then it also introduced me to acting. After that experience, I realised that I truly wanted to be an entertainer.
We all have our vices and for some it might be drugs and alcohol, gambling etc. Mine happened to be sex. – Nyaniso
BL: The life of an artist can be quite unpredictable. How do you deal with the stalls in between roles or productions?
N: I use the intervals between roles to reflect. Yes, I also go through the anxiety that comes with being a professional actor and sometimes wonder if I will ever get hired again.
However, I have taught myself to use such times to explore other avenues. Maybe that time off means I must do more theatre, film, writing, directing or dancing – it’s all about remaining active, which is probably why I have never had a dead period in my career.
I am grateful, because I feel like God has always had something I can align with, one way or the other. The Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive,” and I always ask.
BL: What motivated you to go on the path of emotional clearing?
N: Earlier on in our relationship, me and my wife, were going through a difficult time. Before we got married I found myself using sex to deal with a lot of wounds that I had as a man. Porn, strip clubs and brothels became my vice.
We all have our vices and for some it might be drugs and alcohol, gambling etc. Mine happened to be sex.
My addiction put a strain on our relationship until we reached a breaking point. I was caught in between what’s important to me and what was keeping me from it, and that’s when I decided to do all that was necessary to nurture what was most important to me.
In 2010, my wife met Dane Tomas while she was in Australia, the man who developed the spiral method. It’s an emotional clearing tool which has been recently recognised as an effective healing method.
I went through the spiral method process, which was seven-week long, and I was just unravelling things that had been sitting inside and negatively affecting my emotional spaces.
The positive transformation that happened to me and my wife served as evidence that this is a method that is needed worldwide.
She was so transformed by the method and got to a point where she had given up on our relationship, and she decided to leave and explore what she had just discovered about herself.
I, also being transformed in some way, decided to fight for my relationship. I went to go train as a healer, and it turns out that it was something I needed.
After the training, me and Yana, decided to start our company Velo Souls.
Through the company we get to take on clients that we can help go through the process we went through, and we have been slowly changing lives ever since.
BL: Do you think we can ever get to a point where men are able to seek emotional help so they can be better human beings?
N: Yes. But it’s still going to take a while for men to be comfortable with being emotional and vulnerable. Many of us still don’t know ourselves, because we fail to go deep and investigate the things that are happening inside of us.
That is why I launched a private group on Facebook, called Vela Tata, where we create a private and safe space that is about brotherhood and cultivates deep connections amongst men. It’s all about creating a movement of men that can be emotional, vulnerable, available and present.
BL: What made you decide to tie the knot?
N: When my wife was ready to leave me, that’s when I realised that she was what I needed in my life. That is why I always encourage women to not be afraid to choose themselves. If you are in any abusive space then you have to choose yourself.
Men are beautiful people, but if they are taking out their pain and frustrations on you, then leave. If it is meant to be, he will put in the work and transform so he can be a better partner, and your relationship will flourish.
BL: And how is life as a married man?
N: I am truly blessed. When you make a commitment and put money down, buy a ring, sign a contract and invest in being on a journey with someone for the rest of your life, a different level of trust kicks in. Your fights are no longer about finding a reason to leave but more about finding ways to understand each other better.
For me being married is beautiful because that means I am in this life-journey with someone who is presently and proudly, in it with me.