I’ve always had a love for telling stories so a career in Literature, Scriptwriting and TV production was a dream of mine which thankfully I’ve been able to materialise.
Offering narratives that move us forward as a people is what inspires me. Narratives that not only celebrate us as black people, but attempt to unravel our complexities is what inspired me to venture into TV and literature
Those are the opening words of Tshego Monaisa, the 37 year old current full-time Scriptwriter for Skeem Saam, a Msanzi soapie that is screened on SABC 1.
I am in the development phase of a feature film and telenovela. I also produce, write and direct for an online talkshow, Zazi Zithande Zithembe, which is hosted by Lusanda Mbane.
Through her production company, MonaLisa Productions, she created the web series, The Single Diaries of a Jozi girl, and intends to expand the web series to specific African cities which include Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia specifically because she knows writers from there.
She says she would also love to include Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria) and Accra (Ghana) but faces the challenge of not knowing any writers from there.
Monaisa says she has identified writers that will create the three main storylines of their main character’s journeys in The Single Diaries of their specific city. Each of the storylines explore the theme of love,
“However, each specific city will be characterised by the city’s unique aesthetic, use of vibrant language, music, nuances and display of rich textures, which is exciting as viewers will not only go on the journey with the characters, but they will in turn also get to explore the city that the web series is set in, as well.”
What drives Monaisa to pursue her dreams and to make a mark in the literature, film and entertainment industry?
“I’m a diligent and focused hard worker who lives her life according to her purpose. I’m friendly and love being around people, but am equally private and protective of my space. I am resilient and obsessed with finishing anything that I start. I love to read, write and travel.”
The South African arts industry is made up of a small number of successful people, and a large number of struggling artists trying to make it. Because the arts industry is saturated it requires tons of resilience in order for one’s dreams to manifest, be it through the approval of a proposal for funding, or finding platforms that will exhibit one’s work. However, more and more artists are realising that big businesses are “rightly” concerned about their bottom line, and that their investment goes to where they can see the biggest return, which doesn’t leave much room for those who are starting out.
Who knew that Monaisa once dreamt of becoming a singer at some point? She dropped it off because she can’t sing
“I love music. I used to write songs as a teenager and was convinced that I would be a singer, but alas!”
She has authored three books so far, Poetry of Love, Three dates and Three sisters, and she plans for more.
I’ve always had a knack for writing love stories and have always been inspired by finding platforms through which I can express my work, so I was very excited when I got the opportunity to be published by Sapphire Press when they released a brief looking to publish love stories in an urban setting, written by young black writers.
With Three Sisters, however I wanted to tell a story of three women who don’t know each other, and yet have similar experiences in their relationships. I didn’t set out to write about abuse, but through the process of writing the main character’s story arcs, the theme of abuse organically became the commonality in the three main character’s relationships.
What I wanted to portray more than anything, in having these three distinct characters face a commonality beyond their control, is that there is no face to abuse. As women we are susceptible to abuse at the hands of our partners, and hopefully through Millicent, Mpho and Lesego’s journeys, we as women will be encouraged to seek help should we find ourselves in the same or similar situation
Monaisa says she is currently in the process of writing her fourth novel which she hopes to publish next year as she is almost finished.
Similarly to Three Sisters, the three main characters are black women, however in this case they are friends, and the novel that I’m currently writing doesn’t explore a heavy topic such as abuse. It is an ode to female friendships, and is dedicated to girls and the women we become.
The arts industry is highly competitive and crowded in South Africa, but Monaisa’s mark is evidently stamped and she has this to say,
“I don’t know that I stand out. I’m just in my own lane doing me! I set out my goals and smash them”
For those who want to venture and survive in the industry, Monaisa says they need to have a love for what they do because the TV and literature industries are very saturated, and thus competitive, so it is the love for what they do that will carry them through the trying times.
Because of the nature of these industries, you will probably get more rejections then approvals, so it is beneficial to find ways of expressing your talent, be it through self-publishing your own books, or using social media and platforms such as YouTube to reach an audience, and thus create revenue from your work.
Since the work that we create as artists is borne from within us, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective, particularly when receiving criticism or praise, and try to let neither the praise nor the criticism get to your head, as this can adversely affect your creativity.
Monaisa started her TV career in 2006 when she trained as a Script Rigor trough Sediba and moved up the ranks till she worked in Isibaya, Askies, My Perfect Family and One Sweet Home. She has also worked in managing regional documentaries on ETV, in Rhythm City, eKasi Stories and Ashes to Ashes among others.
It is her love for telling her own story that led her into writing her two romantic novels, Poetry of Love and Three Dates published by Kwela books’ Sapphire Press, then her third novel, Three Sisters is self published and was named one of the top six books of 2016 by online platform, Okay Africa.
Besides all that, Monaisa was also head writer on Mopani, SABC”s 2 thirteen part coming of age love story set in Venda. She has facilitated script workshops for writers in the Mpumalanga province. She has also worked as a panel member of the writing category in the South African Film and Television Awards among other prestigious facilitations.
She currently works as a Story liner and Scriptwriter, she was executive producer and director of her web series, The Single diaries of a Jozi Girl, an adaptation of her romance novels
“Africa is such a beautiful place to live in because of our untapped potential. We need to tell our own stories because we have a lot to celebrate as a people,” concludes the determined woman.