Sky-high dreams: RIP Given Mkhize


Given Phumlani Mkhize

TRIPLE threat dancer: Given Mkhize. Photograph courtesy facebook.

“WHAT YOU SEE is what you get,” were the words accomplished South African actor, choreographer and dancer Given Phumlani Mkhize used to describe himself on social media. This skilled and delightful performer literally left his heart and soul onstage, on 4 October 2019 when he succumbed to an asthma attack during rehearsals for Jack and the Beanstalk, the annual pantomime for the Joburg theatre. He was 27.

Acknowledging his passion and focus, Mkhize was God-fearing and enjoyed an immense love for people. He didn’t believe in limits: “Not even the sky,” he said. “You are as big as your dreams.” And if this was the criteria on which he measured himself, Mkhize was great, indeed: the second of three children to two South African police officers, Mkhize was born on 15 March 1992. His passion for the arts was evident from a young age. With instinctive and trained skills ranging from pole-dancing to singing, he was a triple threat from the outset, a force to be reckoned with onstage. Mkhize held a Bachelor’s degree in live performance from AFDA as well as a national diploma in dance from Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria.

After graduating he joined Pretoria-based dance company K-Mad where he added to his repertoire, but didn’t prevent him from working with some of South Africa’s top choreographers and directors, including Gregory Maqoma, Debbie Rakusin and Debbie Turner. His stage debut was in the dance production In My End is My Beginning, a beautifully constructed piece choreographed by Sunnyboy Motau at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre. A year later, he was a male swing in Jonathan Munby and Mdu Kweyama’s production of King Kong which travelled between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Mkhize was also a dancer for Tailormade Group, a corporate event producer which saw him regularly working on Sun International’s circuit.

But Mkhize was not just an able cast member, auditioning between gigs. He was in the process of developing his skills as a choreographer and a producer. In June of 2019, he choreographed The Prodigal Man, a very popular musical revue hosted by the Joburg Theatre. A couple of months later, in September, with Usisipho Nteyi, he co-choreographed and, with Lungile Michael Themba, co-produced another work with Nal’Ithemba Productions, called iiNtsomi Zomphefumlo: Tales of the Soul also for the Joburg Theatre.

Mkhize found comfort on the stage performing. His stage presence and easy grin brought a ray of light into the dressing rooms and backstage atmosphere, as it made an impact on the audience. While the roles he had garnered up until the time of his tragic demise were cameo pieces and chorus positions, Mkhize was most certainly on the brink of stardom.

Mkhize lost his mother in 2014, and is survived by his father, Kay Makhubela, his two sisters: Yoliswa and Yolanda, to say nothing of devastated colleagues, friends in the theatre and dance fraternities. A video tribute to Mkhize is currently being developed by his devastated friends and colleagues. It will be released later this year: watch this space.

  • Danielle Roodt is a first year Fine Arts student at the University of Pretoria. She is part of the VIT 101 class, being taught the rudiments of arts writing by Robyn Sassen during 2020.

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