Fundi Zwane: It’s critical for artists to be exposed to business

fundi zwane she leads africa

Who says you have to choose between being creative and working in the corporate world? Fundi Zwane believes you can have both. As a Motherland Mogul, Fundi manages to successfully combine two unusual passions; art and the corporate world.

Through her Industrial Theatre, Phezulu-Phambili, Fundi translates boring policies into informative theatrical shows. When she’s not running her creative/artistic company, Fundi acts and has appeared on soapies such as Generations.

Find out why people in the performing arts should be exposed to business and the one important skill all artists need below.

Why do you think people in the performing arts should be exposed to business?

I think it is critical for artists to be exposed to business as it helps them navigate spaces beyond the creative world.

It is a great arsenal in their “toolbox” when negotiating things like contracts and issues of strategically placing themselves as brands. It also adds enormous value to their package as an artist.

Another way it comes in handy is that sometimes, as artists, we go through what we call “dry seasons” when there is not a lot of acting work available. So having a background in business can really assist in coming up with ways to sustain yourself during this period as it encourages thinking out-of-the-box and beyond your comfort zone.

How does your Industrial Theatre, Phezulu-Phambili Collective merge both passions seamlessly?

Phezulu-Phambili merges the corporate and creative worlds by taking something like a policy or a piece of legislation and presenting it in manner that is “out-of-the-box”.

Another component that becomes critical is understanding the audience that you present that piece of Industrial Theatre to. Usually, it is a non-theatre going audience and most times, it’s their first contact with the creative world.

So it becomes incumbent on my company to make the experience unforgettable and memorable. Phezulu-Phambili takes what is usually mundane, black and white, full of jargon and brings it to life!

That is how we marry the worlds of corporate and creative seamlessly.


How have you successfully combined your passions for art and the corporate world?

What I mark as success is when Phezulu-Phambili did contracts for BROLL (one of the biggest property realtors in SA) and recently Transnet (one of the biggest parastatals in SA).

The way we were able to interpret and communicate their health and safety policies through theatre was, for me, magical. I deem a project a success based on the response we get during and after a performance -and obviously the request for more business.

It is always a gratifying feeling and makes all the hours spent combing through a policy and interpreting it through the creative process of writing and rehearsals worth it.

I also consider it a success when Phezulu-Phambili manages to go into the corporate space and get people to engage with a policy in a way that is  fun and interactive because of the way we present it to them.


What keeps you going as a young black South African woman?

What keeps me going as a young South African woman in business is an insatiable desire to succeed and leave a legacy. Not only for my daughter but for other young women who have dared to go into business in a country where the economic scales are still so imbalanced.

Transformation, especially in the corporate space, is non-existent. I want to be part of the pulse changing the narrative of African woman, a pulse celebrating our glory and showcasing us as the amazing, determined success we are.

What also keeps me going is my 3-year-old daughter, Bella-Rose. I’ve always wanted to be a mother that models black excellence to my daughter. Being a single mother in business has NOT been easy. There are times when you feel overwhelmed and want to throwing in the towel for something “easier” seems like the the “better” option.

But keeping focused on the goal of leaving a legacy for my daughter and all other women who look up to me keeps me going. My motto is, ” I don’t stop because it gets hard, I stop when the work is finished”.


What is one seemingly insurmountable challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

One challenge that is forever present is the issue of capital. Be it to start a big project or to expand as the demand for work grows. This can be a very stressful and sometimes, a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

The art of business, I believe, is the relationships you nurture and foster over the years. So in times where money needs to show up for operational purposes and the business coffers are running dry, there are strategic business synergies I have formed with people who are willing to assist.

Creating a culture of taking care of each other financially is important. This obviously comes with one having to practice absolute financial integrity. Once our coffers are replenished, we give back what was borrowed to in times of need.

You spent 4 years on the soapie Generations, what advice would you give on maintaining business relationships for the long run?

I believe maintaining business relationships is absolutely crucial as I’ve mentioned above.

Acting on a soapie like Generations really did teach me that. I always advise on maintaining a good working relationship, especially with people you enjoy working with, people who inspire you to do more and people who believe in your vision for success.

What business skills do you think an actress must definitely have?

As an actress, you MUST have the business skill of negotiating. This, I believe, is really important and makes people take you seriously.

Be it negotiating a contract, or negotiating with producers/ writers about a storyline for the character you are playing, it is an important skill. I once witnessed actress Nambitha do this on the set of Generations and I gained such a profound respect for her.

Nambitha knew her character in and out and there was a line in the script that she really believed her character would never say. Witnessing her negotiate with the producers and writers about those lines and how resolute she was, just blew me away.

As a young actress, witnessing a principal cast member negotiate about her lines so skilfully was really amazing and I learned a lot from that.

Hey South African #MotherlandMoguls, the SheHive will be landing in Johannesburg from November 3-6. Find out more here.

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