SOUTH African entertainers are busting the stereotype that a career in the arts is only for those who don’t have an aptitude for academic pursuits.
Clement Maosa qualified as a lawyer, but he prefers to spend his days on the set of SABC youth drama Skeem Saam, where he plays a student.
The actor, who has an LLB from the University of Limpopo, is one of many South African entertainers who have degrees unrelated to their chosen career.
For starters, YoTV’s Musa Mthombeni is a medical doctor, rapper iFani holds an honours degree in computer science, Back to the Beach crooner Kyle Deutschmann is a chiropractor, and DJ Tira has a degree in human resources.
Maosa, who completed his degree in 2011, said he “wasn’t interested in serving articles or practicing as a lawyer because I am doing something I am very passionate about”.
He added: “I strongly believe in education. I have my degree so that option will always be there for me.
“Maybe in future I might practise as a lawyer and have my own law firm, because life is unpredictable.”
Mthombeni obtained his medical degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, something he said he had “always wanted since I was a child”.
He became a household name at the age of 12 as a presenter on YoTV — a job he held for 10 years before embarking on radio career in 2011, which he juggled with his studies.
When the academic work became more intense in his final years, Mthombeni said, he found himself using almost every hour in the day “juggling studies, television and radio while also attempting to have a social life”.
But he had to put his radio gig on hold when he was assigned to intern at Addington Hospital in Durban in 2015 and 2016. He received his certificate to practise in January.
“I still want to do acting and radio; it’s about me getting hired again in those fields or looking for jobs in that again.
“But I wanted to complete medicine so that if this doesn’t work out I will always have the option to pursue the medical field.
“TV money is nice, but it’s smart to have something extra as opposed to mastering one thing.”
Rapping about former Miss Teen Zizo Beda, wearing comical spectacles and rocking outrageous hairstyles could have fooled many into thinking Mzayifani Mzondeleli Boltina, known as iFani to his fans, is just another hitmaker. Few people know he holds an honours degree in computer science from the University of Cape Town.
Drummer Robin Brink of Beatenberg is also a UCT graduate. He completed his degree in English and digital media in 2012 and worked as web developer before “the band took off”.
Another UCT graduate is alternative pop singer, songwriter and producer Jimmy Nevis, who completed his bachelor of social sciences in media and sociology in 2014 while juggling his music career.
He is best known for his hit 7764, but it was Heartboxing and In Love with You that garnered nominations for South African Music Awards in the record of the year category.
Top Billing presenter Roxy Burger holds a BA in audiovisual production management from the University of Johannesburg and an honours degree in brand leadership from Vega School of Brand Leadership.
“My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my honours so I funded my own studies in 2010.
“It was the toughest thing, studying and working at the same time,” said Burger.
For Tira Khathi, better known as DJ Tira, his degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in social sciences has helped him make “key employment decisions” as a business owner of recording label Afrotainment.
“I find myself using the knowledge I have from university. It instilled discipline in me and, as much as talent is important, so is my education,” he said.
Isibaya star Nomzamo Mbatha is heading back to university to finish her BCom — she has only three modules left to complete.
“It’s the sense of security that comes with education. In my mind, what I have achieved amounts to nothing without completing my degree.”
If young entertainers were “not afforded the opportunity to further their studies they should attempt getting skills in finance and brand management to help them nurture their careers as entertainers”, said playwright and actor John Kani, who holds two honorary doctorates.
“The industry needs more qualified talent management. It’s great that they have skills, but those who don’t [have them] need to take it upon themselves [to learn] how to manage their brands and their finances. This way we would have fewer headlines about artists dying poor,” said Kani. - story published in Sunday Times