With over 50 years in the entertainment industry, Mary Twala was a figure we expected to see on our television screens. Her small stature and big personality were an appreciated addition to all her roles. As we remember her life, let us look back at some of her biggest roles.
Taxi to Soweto (1991) – The Manie van Rensburg directed satirical film sees a headstrong Afrikaans couple being thrust headfirst into unfamiliar territory after a myriad of misunderstandings in a minibus taxi. Mary Twala was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 6th Africa Movie Academy Awards for her role as Fedora.
Sarafina (1992) – In this politically charged masterpiece, a young Leleti Khumalo takes the reins as the lead, playing the titular character, Sarafina, who has aspirations far beyond what her environment portrays as possible. Mary Twala plays Sarafina’s grandmother, a minor role on paper but she took full advantage of every second of screen time she had, as it opened doors to local and international opportunities.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The Boy with an African Heart (2009) – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is an HBO series that was adapted from a book about a woman opening the first-ever women’s detective agency in Botswana. In the fourth episode of the series, Mary Twala plays Mma Potsana who helps solve the case of the episode. Though her role was never reprised in the series, the episode is the series’ highest-rated on IMDb.
Skwizas (2010) – In her longest-serving role, Mary Twala took on the role of MaKhambule in the show that tackles life after retirement, and all that comes with it, using a comedic approach to discuss finances, careers, and relationships. Airing on SABC 2 for five seasons, the show is a definite side-splitter, earning several awards and nominations throughout its run. It also earned Mary Twala the title of Best Actress in a TV Comedy at the 2015 South African Film and Television Awards.
In 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa presented her with the National Orders award in the Ikhamanga category for her contributions to the arts, and for raising awareness on women’s health issues through storytelling. Playing as Nana, the yet-to-be-released Comatose is the last film she was on set for. She was a legend in the industry and she will always be remembered as a veteran actress.
Illustration: Giovanna Janos