Khabonina: South Africa’s award-winning leading lady


South African television star, fitness expert, and social media queen Khabonina Qubeka adds another feather to her multi-talented cap. She has won an international film award for her role in the local independent movie, Dora’s Peace.

film, Khabonina Qubeka, Dora's Peace, award, health, fitness, Boston International Film Festival, Kosta Kalarytis, Helen Kuun, Dumi Gumbi
South African actress Khabonina Qubeka gives an emotional and award-winning performance in the drama Dora’s Peace. The film is now available on DVD. (Image: Dora’s Peace official website)

CD Anderson

In April 2017, Khabonina Qubeka won the Indie Spirit Best Actress award at the Boston International Film Festival for her portrayal as a feisty Hillbrow prostitute in Dora’s Peace.

In the movie, Dora is determined to save a gifted young boy from the violent clutches of organised crime. Throughout her dangerous and emotional journey, Dora rediscovers her own lost humanity. The film was shot on location in Johannesburg, and was released in August 2016. It is also now available on DVD.

Dora’s Peace director Kosta Kalarytis also won a Special Recognition award at the US independent film festival, but said the success and heart of the film was all down to Qubeka’s emotional performance.

“Dora is [an] emotionally complex [character],” Kalarytis said in a statement announcing the double win.

“Qubeka broke the mould of the typical ageing prostitute so often seen in films. She’s not anyone’s sidekick, and her character is memorable, authentic and deeply human. She reflects the reality lived by many women, in South Africa and elsewhere around the world.

“We are thrilled that her performance and the film itself have been singled out,” he said. “It’s a great honour.”

A wide-ranging career

Of course, most South Africans are already familiar with Qubeka’s energetic personality.

Born in Orlando West, Soweto, Qubeka is best known for her various television roles, appearing in Isidingo, Muvhango and Erfsondes, and as a popular judge in a host of reality TV dance competitions.

She began her career as a choreographer and musical theatre actress. With a diploma in dance, she won an FNB Dance Umbrella Award in 2003 and has performed in various local productions over the last fifteen years, including a successful UK tour with Richard Loring’s African Footprint show.

Qubeka enthusiastically promotes fitness and healthy living, determined to make South Africans healthier. She hosts the Openview HD fitness series Gym eKasi and has a popular YouTube channel, where she specialises in dance fitness, yoga, and developing healthy diet plans.

She has also recorded a couple of music albums.  With a strong following on social media, she promotes her body positive philosophy. In between all that, Qubeka also runs her own successful public relations company and recently opened her first Khabodacious Moves dance school in Orange Grove, Johannesburg.

Her first film role 

film, Khabonina Qubeka, Dora's Peace, award, health, fitness, Boston International Film Festival, Kosta Kalarytis, Helen Kuun, Dumi Gumbi
Dora’s Peace, directed by Kosta Kalarytis, starring Khabonina Qubeka. (Image: Dora’s Peace official website)

Dora’s Peace is her first feature film, and with the critical acclaim and accolades for her performance, promises to be her most successful career move yet.

Speaking to the Citizen newspaper after she won the Boston award, Qubeka describes Dora as a woman with “seriously badass gusto”, but who ultimately discovers a deeper emotional strength when she has to stand up to a cruel and dangerous world on behalf of a child.

“Dora has a complexity that female characters are rarely afforded,” said the film’s producer Dumi Gumbi, “[this] tale of self-discovery and, ultimately, self-respect, is hopeful and inspiring. [Qubeka’s] remarkable portrayal proves that everybody’s experiences deserve representation.”

Critics and audiences alike have responded positively to an unlikely South African heroine who chooses to take up the good fight.

Qubeka paid special tribute to her own mother in not only inspiring her to flesh out the character of Dora, but also giving her the strength to overcome challenges in developing her multifaceted career.

As the film travels around the world, exhibiting at a host of international film festivals, including in China and Europe, Qubeka said she enjoys the low-key exposure, without the baggage of her local fame.

“I love the fact that no one knows me at [these festivals] so there was no politics involved since they don’t know [about] Isidingo or any other projects. They literally judged what they saw [on screen] and that was it.”

“Khabonina is an actress to watch,” said the film’s local distributor Helen Kuun, “Indigenous Film congratulates her and Kosta for their well-deserved wins. Audiences can look forward to seeing her later [in 2017] in Gersh Kgamedi’s new film She is King.”

film, Khabonina Qubeka, Dora's Peace, award, health, fitness, Boston International Film Festival, Kosta Kalarytis, Helen Kuun, Dumi Gumbi
She is King Movie Poster (Image: IMDB)

As a popular local media personality, businesswoman, choreographer, health expert, and now award-winning actress, Qubeka is yet another great example of a phenomenal South African woman, set to take over the world.

Source: Citizen, News24, Screen Africa, Dora’s Peace website

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