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Tu Nokwe is a South African singer, actress, guitarist, composer, lyricist, recording artist, author, teacher and business woman whose work is driven by her passion for children, community and social justice. She has performed around the world. Brought up in a family of six singers, Tu Nokwe initially taught music to township kids in her family's Amajika Youth and Children's Art Project. As a young adult, Tu traveled the world learning her craft, then returned to South Africa in the early 90s. In 1996, she released the album and hit song Inyakanyaka which redefined her as a powerful innovator. She has since become a living legend of South African culture.
During her more than 40 year career, Ms. Nokwe has worked with South Africa’s finest artists including Bheki Mseleku, Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu and Kaiphus Semenya, Busi Mhlongo, and Bheki Khosa, made immeasurable contributions to arts and society, and been an inspiration to South Africans and the world, demonstrating what’s possible for human beings.
Tu Nokwe has acted in numerous stage productions at home and abroad. She had a major role in the international hit television series Shaka Zulu, a part in the cult classic movie Red Scorpion, and has made numerous television and radio appearances. She has written, produced, and performed in many plays including her mother’s biography, Singing the Times, which was produced by the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, directed by Barney Simon, and premiered at the Stockholm Festival in Sweden. The play was later adapted by Jerry Pooe for American schools and titled My Voice, My Life.
Following her belief that art and music can be formidable weapons in the service of human progress, Ms. Nokwe has perpetuated her family’s Amajika Youth Project, founded in 1976. Amajika empowered youth and children to cope with Apartheid by involving them in music, dance and drama to foster self-esteem and cultural pride. Ms. Nokwe has mentored many students who have gone on to successful careers in the arts, politics, and business. The cast of the hit Broadway musical Sarafina--which was Ms. Nokwe’s original concept--was made up almost entirely of Amajika students.
Ms. Nokwe’s first album Mind Your Own Business (Gallo Records) was released in 1989. In 1996, her hit album Inyakanyaka was nominated for South Africa Music Awards’ Best Album of the Year, and won Best Video for the song Inyakanyaka, defining Ms. Nokwe as a powerful musical force. Her 2002 album African Child was released under her label Tuno Music and named Best Release from Africa by British magazine Liner Notes.
In 2005, Tu Nokwe founded Traditional Music Project to restore and preserve traditional values and interest in indigenous musical instruments. The project was originally funded by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. With support of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts, Tu Nokwe created the musical theatre play Isihlahla Sobuntu (The Tree of Humanity) to promote appreciation of African heritage. Isihlahla Sobuntu recently completed a four-province tour sponsored by the National Lottery.
Now in her 50s, Tu Nokwe has fashioned herself as a motivational speaker/singer and life coach. Her inspirational diary Journey of My Soul and Tu Nokwe’s Circle of Life Empowerment Tools are designed to boost inspiration and self-esteem, helping people reach their highest potentials through music, creative interactions and storytelling. Ms. Nokwe conducts exclusive voice coaching in her Art of Singing & Performance master classes. She also remains active on the world stage.
Tu Nokwe has been honored by numerous awards for her contributions in music, arts and culture, and youth and children empowerment, including The Robin Islands Heritage Award, The President’s Award, and the prestigious eThekwini Living Legends Award.