Unveiling the Business Savvy of AFDA Live Performance Alumni

May 19, 2023 | Alumni, News

In the past 26 years, our AFDA Live Performance alumni have demonstrated their exceptional talent and achieved numerous accolades. They have become widely recognised both in South Africa and abroad for their roles in films, television, on stage and on popular streaming platforms such as Netflix and Showmax. More so they have also excelled as entrepreneurs, establishing thriving companies across various sectors within the entertainment industry. Their entrepreneurial ventures have not only have not only fuelled growth in the South African creative economy but have also made significant contributions to South African nation building.

AFDA Live Performance alumnus Thapelo Mokoena

Thapelo is well-known award-winning actor, producer, MC, filmmaker, distributor, presenter and brand ambassador.

He is also the founder and owner of Easy Sundays Productions, established in 2006, a motion picture business that creates corporate videos, television shows, and films. He also created Air Movie Nights, a company that provides outdoor cinema events in both rural and urban areas.

He is the CEO and founder of Bakoena Brands, established in 2020, an African products & brands production company dedicated to meet the everyday needs of people looking for an expression of Africa’s excellence. Thapelo works with Bosman Family Vineyards to produce Nero, a wine that is commonly known as the Thapelo Mokoena wine.

Thapelo is also the founder and President of a film body called The Young Producers Forum. A forum that aims to empower young producers with information and knowledge that will help them become better producers.

AFDA Live Performance alumni Hayleigh Evans & Orly Shapiro 

Hayleigh and Orly studied their BA in Live Performance together at AFDA Johannesburg, graduating in 2006. Hayleigh went on to complete her Honours degree, whilst Orly set out to travel. When the pair reconnected they created POPArt: an independent Johannesburg based theatre, production company and performing arts centre. POPArt stands for People of Performing Art. It is meant to provide a platform for the showcasing of some of the freshest work and ideas from some of the hottest emerging and established Performing Arts talents South Africa.

Both Orly and Hayleigh were recognised as Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Females of the Year in 2012, as well as in the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans in 2015.

After presenting over 500 brand new theatre works and launching several careers between 2011 and 2020, POPArt took a hiatus because of the COVID pandemic. They however recently relaunched with a 3 month festival called Iyabuya iPOPArt, meaning ”POPArt is coming back”,  a festival that celebrated the spirit of independent theatre and solidified POPArt’s commitment to providing a home for artists in the sector.

AFDA Live Performance alumnus Owen Swanson 

After graduating from AFDA, Owen founded Owen S. Management, a boutique talent management agency renowned for representing many of South Africa’s leading actors, voice-over artists, presenters, influences and media personalities. Owen S. Management has set a benchmark for artist representation in South Africa. They do everything in their capacity to market and promote the talent they represent. As a result, they work with some of the country’s best actors, voice artists, presenters and radio personalities including AFDA Live Performance alumni Amanda du Pont, Bongani Masondo, Lala Yuku and Chi Mhende to name a few.

AFDA Live Performance alumnus Mandla N

Mandla N is an actor, producer and director known for starring as Themba Khumalo in the SABC sitcom “City Ses’la” and its spinoff series “Ses’Top La” as well as being a member of the band Gang of Instrumentals.  He also is the Founder and Executive Creative Director of Black Brain Pictures, established in 2004.

Black Brain Pictures have won over 30 Golden Horn awards at the SAFTAs. They have produced a number of television shows which include “Abo Mzala”, “Thandeka’s Diary”, “City Sis Las”, “Ses Top La”, “Lockdown”, “DiepCity” “Side Dish” and “The Black Door”.

In an interview with Drum earlier this year Mandla N gave some great advice to young creatives entering the entertainment industry. “When I look at how far I have come, I also want to encourage the young creatives that want to break into the industry or that are still starting out. Your dreams are valid, they are not too farfetched. In life the more you learn, the more you realise how little you know, so as you get into the industry, start now and never stop learning because that is what will sustain you going forward,”.


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