Glenwood resident, director, actor, drama lecturer and facilitator Jerry Mpho Pooe (JMP) started his career at Stable Theatre under the wing of Kassie Govender. Pooe was born in Johannesburg and moved to Durban in 1987 where he matriculated in 1990 at Ohlange High School.

He has produced many actors and actresses who are dominating our screens such as Sdumo Mtshali, Dawn King from Uzalo, Siyabonga Shibe and many more. He also worked for Windybrow Theater in Joburg, PACOFS in Free State as artistic director and National Department of Arts and Culture as director. Tabloid Newspapers took some time to chat to Pooe about his passion for arts, his career and his Pan African Art Centre in Wushwini, KwaNgcolosi just after Inanda.

Tabloid Newspapers (TN):
What inspired you to do arts?

Jerry Mpho Pooe (JMP):
I was inspired by what was happening around us in the 80’s in Soweto township and I decided to use arts in fighting apartheid.

TN: Please tell us why you chose to have the art centre in Wushwini and not in the urban or sub-urban area of Durban?

JMP: I chose to have an arts centre in the rural area because I am passionate about development and most of the time, rural communities are neglected and I wanted our society to know that rural areas have a lot to offer as a place where our culture and tradition comes from.

TN: Out of all the productions and plays you have directed, which would you say was the highlight in your career?

JMP: I directed more than 40 productions and travelled the world. My highlights being Peace in The Valley, Let my people go, My voice my life, King DinuZulu The Musical, Ekhaya Poppie, Refugees and King Cetshwayo the Musical. It is difficult to choose because I love all of them.

TN: Your passion for the community can be seen through your work, what community projects are you involved in?

JMP: At the moment, I am busy with building a home for a destitute family who lost their home in Molweni area. I am also training youth and children in arts. We are working with 40 schools helping educators to teach arts.

TN: What programmes are you offering at Wushwini Pan-African Arts Centre and who are you working with in those projects?

JMP: Wushwini offers more than 10 training youth programmes to capacitate our young people, we also offer two international festivals Uhuru Fringe Festival in May and Botho International Heritage Festival in September, we offer exhibitions, we record groups, stage Jazzy Sundays every last week of the month, youth Indaba in June and we provide a venue for any artist who wants to stage their shows or concerts. In most of the projects like film projects, we work with AFDA, we also partner with DUT and Creative Arts College, schools around us, different government departments and the city.

TN: Born in Johannesburg, why did you choose to start a career in KZN?

JMP: I came in Durban at the tender age of 17 to study after completing high school. I studied at UKZN at that time, it was University of Natal while I was a student together with my friend Ben Zungu, we started a company called Eager Artists which will be celebrating 25 years next year.

Our company was focusing on training youth around the townships especially KwaMashu working with Alfred Nokwe, the love of working with young people stole me from Joburg then I was approached by Drama In Aids Education based at the University to work for them. We travelled to all corners of KZN teaching people about AIDS, then worked shortly for the Playhouse then joined DUT as a lecturer for 10 years. That kept me in KZN, and my career blossomed, I ended up working for KZN Department of Arts and Culture as deputy director.

TN: Which international directors have you worked with and on which projects?

JMP: I worked with Roel Twinstra from Netherlands we did Free Birds, Vuka Vuka, Madonna of Excelsior, Respect, Ben Okri, House of Hunger and Swallowed. Lorna Hill from USA – we did My Voice My Life, Tom Burrows from USA we did Living Room. Kees van Loenen from Netherlands, we did Man’s World.

TN: Which countries have you been to and which one would you move to if given a choice?

JMP: I have been to Spain, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Ethiopia, USA, China and Swaziland. I fell in love with the USA but I will never leave my country, I love South Africa too much.

TN: If you were not in arts, what other career would you choose?

JMP: If I was not in the arts I would be cooking. I am also a chef by profession.

TN: On a sunday afternoon when relaxing, what music do you listen to?

JMP: I listen to all kinds of music because l love different sounds and music feeds my soul especially African Jazz, Soul and Opera.