Sophie Mgcina Award unearths emerging voices

The Market Theatre ventured into unfamiliar territory in 2014 when it became the first theatre to create an award that acknowledged the crucial role a young and emerging professional will play in the creative industry. This affords the recipient an opportunity to create brand new work to showcase at the Market’s main stages they have full creative licence to dream and executive work they can be proud of.

In 1957, aged 19, Sophie Mgcina embarked on a lifelong career in the performing arts when she made a lasting impression at a Union of Southern African Artists talent contest. This marked the start of more than four decades of composing, theatrical and acting which gained her national and international fame. Her greatest achievement remains The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena, the play adapted from Elsa Joubert’s famed book Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena.

The play became an instant hit when it premiered at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg in 1980. It was re-staged in New York that same year and then again at the Edinburgh Festival in 1983, followed by a world tour in 1984. In New York Mgcina was given an Obie Award for best achievement, and was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for best supporting actress.

“The decision to name the award after Sophie Mgcina was informed by her ability to re-invent herself, her versatility and the depth of her body of work in a time where it was tough to be a woman let alone being a stellar performer who remained at the top of her game until her untimely passing” said a proud James Ngcobo – Artistic Director of the Market Theatre Foundation. 

This is a stand-alone annual event held in the month of June to celebrate youth month. The vision behind this award is to focus on the recognizing of emerging voices, this is a very big part of the belief that the theatre must carry on mentoring the young and giving them opportunities and spade to hone their voices.

There is a beautiful symbolism in the fact that we get to announce this young emerging voice on a day like the 19th of June as a way in which we articulate our commitment to the vision and ethos of this iconic theatre that has always loved the idea of incubating the next generation storytellers.

Previous Winners
of the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voices Award


Anje Cronje(2018)

Anje Cronje  matriculated and moved to Bloemfontein in 2017 to study Architecture at the University of the Free State. She is a young creative who finds balance between technical creative designing and the absolute freedom of art where she can express without boundaries. Her architecture career and her art career constantly fuel and influence each other. Cronje’s artworks are influenced by locals from Aberdeen, her hometown, and photographs of interesting traditional faces from Africa.

Lesedi Job (2017)

Lesedi Job is a seasoned theatre performer, Lesedi has starred in the productions of Colored Museum (2014), Ketekang (2014), Raisin in the Sun (2014) and Fisher’s of Hope (2015) amongst others.

In 2016, Lesedi turned her talents to directing. Directing the poignant, When Swallows Cry (2016) and township-journey of Itsoseng (2017.), she obtained her BA Hons degree in dramatic arts from Wits University and has also trained as a singer. She works as a singer, actress, voice over artist, director and MC using her talents both on stage and on TV.

In 2012 Lesedi was the face and voice of ‘Lindi’ for the ABSA personal loans ad campaign. Lesedi has done voice overs for TV, Radio and Corporate AV and just some of her work includes voiceovers for Hollard, Black Opal cosmetics, Eskom, Johnson&Johnson, Sasol, and KFC.

Sonia Radebe 2

Sonia Thandazile Radebe (2016)

Sonia a dynamic choreographer who is also recipient of the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance. The Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award recognizes her fierceness, feistiness and her absolute passion for movement that is driven by a sense of dramaturgy. Sonia will present a show to be confirmed later this year at the Market Theatre.

Dominique Khayelihle Gumede – 2015

Playwright, director both on television and theatre, Dominique Khayelihle Gumede was awarded the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award to celebrate his  passion for writing narratives and his sense for shaping biographies. Dominique adapted and directed Crepuscule, a Can Themba short story. Dominique is now considered to be one of the most sought after young theatre practitioners. He won the Naledi Best Director award for Crepuscule. The production was presented on the main programme at the National Arts Festival in 2016.

Lulu Mlangeni – 2014

South African dancer and choreographer, Lulu Mlangeni, was awarded the inaugural  Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award to recognize the dynamic strides that she was making in her field as both a choreographer and teacher. Lulu created Page 27 as her award presentation. The production went on to perform at the Afrovibes Festival in Den Haag, Amsterdam. Lulu is a senior dance facilitator, teacher and Creative assistant at Vuyani Dance Theatre.