Strength, focus, resilience – this trinity make one in the description of the greatest people of our time.

In J. A. Rogers’ World’s Great Men of Color (Touchstone, 1996), Rogers gives an account of Hatshepsut of Ancient Egypt, The Ablest Queen of Far Antiquity who, according to Egyptologists, has been deemed the greatest female ruler of all time. Of her and her temple, it is written, “A radiant queen reigns here, a queen of fantasy and splendour….instead of being uplifted or overawed by form, we are rejoiced by color, by the vivacity of arrested movement; by the story that color and movement tell…” Hatshepsut, who reigned at a time where her gender was her biggest disadvantage, knew that a reign founded on a consistent fierce strength could only be sustained through hard work. She maintained a strong, focused and resilient modus operandi throughout her reign to the extent that her tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings which was normally reserved for lordly males.  Her wish of living in the memory of mankind immortally was achieved.

Today, centuries after the reign of Hatshepsut was written, that same fierce energy she exuded during her reign reverberates through the strong, focused and resilient nature of actress, singer, dancer and humanist, Zikhona Sodlaka. Zikhona, whose name in isiXhosa refers to the presence of more, aptly describes the woman who carries it. During our sit-down, Sodlaka affirms her reality of being a woman of that same sound and resilient strength of Queen Hatshepsut by saying, “I don’t know women who are not strong. This thing of African and being great, what more could you be?”

If there is one thing resoundingly strong about Sodlaka, it’s her uncanny ability to speak the truth as she knows it, without any reservation. At the very least, this is a welcomed disposition during a month where the love for everyone else, is more of an appealing social and commercial cultural fit, than the love for oneself.

Sodlaka leads in this disposition of self-love when she says, “All I know is how to love myself”. True to form, Sodlaka’s charismatic confidence brings to mind the powerful perspective that actor Robert Morely had of himself when he said, “It is a great help for man to be in love with himself. For an actor, it is absolutely essential. I genuinely like myself, and have no reason to believe that the feeling is not reciprocated.”

It is said that love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. This love sits well with our February cover star who has mastered the art of dying to herself in order to become reborn in the characterisation of someone else. In keeping with this, she’s developed a character portrayal which has its own language. From bursting onto the scene with her portrayal of Zukiswa in SABC 1’s series Tsha Tsha season 4, landing a role in one of South Africa’s most watched soapies, Generations as Priska, playing the role of a lifetime as Nelson Mandela’s mother, Nosekeni in the critically acclaimed Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, theatre performances in stage productions such as Athol Fugard’s Nongogo directed by James Ngcobo to the unforgettable portrayal of the witch we all loved to hate, uS’cotho, in Mzansi Magic’s Igazi which was preceded by her portrayal of the psychotic character of Lady Macbeth, Ava, in SABC 1’s Shakespeare drama series Entabeni, Sodlaka’s character portrayal language is indeed as she likes to describe it – the truth. In trying to ascertain how she expresses this truth so easily in the portrayal of characters, Sodlaka indulged me by truthfully admitting, “The difficulty in playing uS’cotho, a witch, was having no real-life witch to job-shadow. However, the crazy thing about playing a character is that you already know what it’s like to be that character. Expressing dark energies is like expressing energies of light. Furthermore, uS’cotho was a woman and a woman in love – I know what that feels like.”

In my personal observation of Sodlaka, she is a warrior – of life, love, the craft and her love for the craft. In this age of social media led engagement, the TV channel has morphed into many different formats and content is more personal than it has ever been. In that, there is an open-ended conversation which begs to understand where the real purveyors of the craft position themselves. Is it easier to shift into pursuing the largest following and subsequent brand ambassadorships or retain focus on pursuing the best roles that could potentially be amplified by a social media following. Sodlaka gives a sound perspective by saying, “I started out at a time when all you did was work. There weren’t any short-cuts. When you’re an influencer, your integrity is different – you’ve honed the craft of making money, not the craft.” This perspective she stands by is supported by film veterans also. In her Screen Actors Guild award acceptance speech for best actress in a leading role for the Academy Award nominated film, The Wife, Glen Close said, “The most powerful thing about our industry is that it’s based on two human eyes looking into two human eyes. We have to remember how powerful that is in a world obsessed with different sized screens.”

In Jordan Peterson’s best-seller, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Allen Lane, 2018), Peterson lists the second rule for life as, “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping”. In an industry where it is easy to let the bells and whistles and even more whistles after that steer you from the course of correction, one may welcome a detrimental reality of forgetting what got them to enjoy those bells and whistles to begin with. True to her queen-like fierce nature of resolute focus on her craft, Sodlaka has set a solid tone for what it means to remain in the rhythm of honing your craft, avoiding distractions and seeing each role through to consummate completion. Undeniably so, her deep sense of love for herself and her work has made it so easy for her to help herself secure key roles and if anything a sustainable career as she outlined, “The job is primary, the bells and whistles are secondary. People are so busy with the stuff that never mattered that they make it easy for people like us to flourish. I know why I make the big bucks. I know why I get called. When you’re clear about who you are, you have no issues about jumping into someone else’s lane. A person who is good at their job is someone who knows what their job is. The work is the currency.”

Zikhona Sodlaka has set the bar for what it means to comfortably stay in your lane for as long as the journey towards honing one’s craft takes. Her natural ability to authentically reflect life as it is, makes her what we all aspire to be – intentional in our thinking, bold in our being and fierce in our essence.

Credits Photographer: @ingridalicephotography Assisted By: @theoneandonlywanderer Post-Production: Galina Trush Hair Designer: @saadique Make-Up Artist: @les_w Fashion Director: @karinorzol – Women’s: @mariannefasslerofficial – Men’s: @fundudzi – Shoes: @europaart – Accessories: @brand_athena_a Location: @wizardsvintage Article: @foreveronke