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13 Jul

Siyanda Manzini – A Life of Purpose & A Dream Realised 

When Siyanda Manzini was only 4 years old, she wanted to live in ‘TV Land’. Today, the executive producer, director and showrunner is walking fully in her purpose and living out her toddlerhood dream. Raised in the Eastern Cape and surrounded by ambitious and purpose-driven women, she quickly learnt to dream big and to go for whatever set her soul on fire. “My aunts, my mom…all the women around me had jobs. They were strong and they were looking after life. So, that set the standard for me. There wasn’t an option to be anything less,” she shared. 

For her, sitting in front of the television was not only entertaining but also very intriguing. She was curious about everything and this is what led to the final product she saw in front of her. “Everything I could see, I wanted to be part of. I wanted to know who those people on the TV were. And so throughout my time growing up, I was trying to navigate that and I did everything within my reach to experience that. I even wanted to be a DJ…anything that would expose me to that life,” she added. 

In university, Manzini naturally gravitated towards individuals who were passionate about the world of television and radio. Since then, the gifted storyteller has been a part of various platforms that have contributed to her journey and growth. These include the Sithengi Film Festival, where she attended masterclasses from the country’s best television directors. As well as the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival which pushed her to solidify her spot among the country’s best television-makers. 

Manzini has worked on several television shows including; Hectic Nine-9, Big Brother Titans and The Real Housewives of Cape Town. Through her work, she has also touched on some of South Africa’s burning societal issues. “We did ‘Ubudoda’ and it was so personal because we had two strong leads. We told a powerful story in terms of questioning the role of a father. What is the role of a man in terms of the Xhosa tradition and the bush experience?”

Having been in the television-making industry since 2006, we asked her what she views as the secret ingredient for a good TV show. Relatability was her unequivocal answer. “It’s when the viewer sees themselves in one aspect or another in that show. The show should mirror you in some way, whether it’s a good part of you that you are proud of or the parts of you that you wouldn’t like to entertain.  When it’s too far-fetched… you don’t have a TV show,” she explained. 

Undoubtedly, her 17 years in the industry have not been without any stumbling blocks. There are plenty of challenges which she continues to navigate. These include limited opportunities due to the industry being quite small. She also shared that women often still need to work a lot harder than their male counterparts.  Equally, her journey has come with many profound lessons. The importance of purpose is one of them. “We are all on a journey and none is greater than the other. When I was 4 years old wanting to be in television, I was seeking that. I was seeking purpose. And now that I live it, the lesson has been that we have it in us. We are able to make our dreams come true and to live out our purpose.”

When Manzini is not working on some of Mzansi’s most captivating and most-loved shows, she can be found deeply engaged in her biggest blessing which is being a mother. It is through her two children, Zion and Zani, that she gets to learn many beautiful lessons and see life through a different lens. “I  thought I knew who I was until I became a mom. Motherhood has expanded my ability to be. Being a mother has birthed a greater Siyanda and has made me become all that I am,” she said. 

Aware that there are young people who may look up to her and draw inspiration from her story to relentlessly pursue their passions, the storyteller and TV director encourages a culture of perseverance despite all odds. You can fall but never give up.  Life takes away our thirst and hunger just by hurt and disappointment. But I say you need to stir yourself up when you don’t feel like it. You can rest. You can change direction. You can fall but don’t give up”. 

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