Actress UK South Africa

BIOGRAPHY

 

THIS IS MY STORY

My life began in Ethopia where I was born to South Africans who had been banished from their homeland for campaigning against apartheid. After settling in Zambia, my father was posted back to Ethiopia for work. However, amidst serious political upheaval, it was decided that my sister and I would leave for the United Kingdom, to study at boarding school. Spending so much of my early life in different countries meant that my childhood was a rather nomadic one and I began to harbor feelings of being an outsider. These feelings were compounded when I graduated from the Welsh College of Music and Drama, as I found that visible roles for black actresses were few and far between.

In 1994, South Africa was finally able to hold its first free and fair elections, and I jumped at the chance to return. It was a chance for me to visit my homeland, but also a place in which I could explore my sense of identity, and what it meant to be me. I moved to Johannesburg with a plan to stay for only two years. I acted at the Windybrow Theatre, before landing the part of the power-hungry and domineering Ntsiki Lukhele on the hit television show Generations. Ntsiki was an extremely popular character in South Africa. She was manipulative and devious, but more importantly it was the first time black South Africans were able to see themselves in the media. Her dreadlocks, her appearance and the way she talked was unlike anything that had ever been on television, and I soon became a recognised figure in South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

"I am Versatile, yet grounded. Have had to stay open and reinvent myself over and over to stay in the game."

 

 

 

Actress in UK and South Africa

Pamela reading from her memoir "Dancing to the Beat of the Drum"

THE HIGHS AND LOWS

Being on magazine covers was a decidedly peculiar experience, which was all the stranger coming from the United Kingdom, where in the 80s, black actresses just weren’t visible. I also started to develop issues with my self-esteem, and as a popular actress I was supposed to develop an authority not just on-screen, but also off-screen, and this was something I struggled with. These issues were exacerbated by the fact that I wasn’t accepted as a South African. I was an exile, not a South African, and I would always have to explain why I talked differently. I wasn’t in the United Kingdom anymore, but in my purported home, and yet I still couldn’t shake the feelings of being an outsider.

After Generations, I further developed my acting, with roles in Sometimes in April and Zulu Love Letter. However, my personal life was spiralling out of control and my marriage was causing me severe heartache and hardship. I soon lost everything that I possessed, and I very quickly hit rock bottom, which culminated in me living and sleeping in my car.

 

 

 

FINDING STRENGTH THROUGH BUDDHISM

Shunned by my friends, it was at this stage that I encountered the kindness of strangers. I was able to pick myself up and find a place in Johannesburg where I collected my thoughts. I then decided to return to the UK. I reunited with my estranged sister and she introduced me to Buddhism which has given me strength and helped me to rebuild my life. Back in the UK, I have had the good fortune to appear in both film, stage and even landed a regular role in Coronation Street.

 

 

 

MY IDENTITY AS A GLOBAL AFRICAN

 I’ve come to the realisation that my identity is that of a global African, and I would like to represent not just this African diaspora, but also those people who think they have no worth. Every ordinary person is extraordinary in their own way, and every person has their own story to tell. I want people to see the value in themselves, and what they can achieve if they put their mind to it.