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Thursday 8 July 1999

Chatting to Miss Thandi

Miss Thandi in Cue MagazineVuyo Raymond Matinyana, the man from Port Alfred, talks to Cue student reporter Sarah MacGillivray about Miss Thandi, the internationally famous drag queen.

"She brings joy to people, she lets them release." Raymond speaks as Miss Thandi's creator. "I seem to communicate better with people as her. She was born around that."

Raymond is softly spoken and gentle. As Miss Thandi he is extravagant and gorgeous and, in performance, vivacious and flamboyant.

Sitting quietly in the kitchen of his bed and breakfast, he told me about his work, his life and about the famous Miss Thandi.

Born and schooled in Port Alfred, he finished matric in Soweto before studying voice and drama at Fuba Art School. Then it was off to the Netherlands with a Dutch anti-apartheid movement. He worked for a year with an international arts education programme "Up with People" touring the US and Europe.

But there seemed to be some sadder stories hidden between the lines of the quick summery. However, Raymond just smiled sweetly, with hands clasped gracefully in front of him.

"I did not come back to South Africa partly because I didn't see my role here. In 1992 there was still so much violence.

"You know, Miss Thandi was really only born and developed in Holland. It started with drag shows, miming and lip-synching Diana Ross and Sherley Bassey. It was nice but it wasn't me - I wasn't really myself. Then her character grew and Miss Thandi was born.

"Raymond's latest pursuits include starting his "Afro Vibes" band and becoming a founder member of the Afro Vibes Foundation. The foundation aims to promote and enhance cultural exchange between Holland and South Africa through projects, education and sponsorship.

"Doing these projects is a way for me to live South African in Holland. I can't ignore my background, my people. My heart is always here.

"But Holland is wonderful - you aren't faced with everyday racial problems. It's easier to develop my character there; you can ignore things. You can have your opinion without people wanting to grab you and squeeze you. You can live. People appreciate a lot of things there. You forget, and you become yourself. You let go and it makes you feel easier."

He has found being far away has enabled him to understand his culture. Talking about this troubled country, his fears and concern became apparent. "People still need healing here. We've moved from hardcore Apartheid with Mandela saying 'you are all my children'. But that has passed now - it's in our hands and up to all of us now.

"So now is the time, I'm back here. And my contribution seems to be being nice to people. For me, each drop helps to fill the glass. It starts with your neighbour. We need to be kind to each other. And I think it's important to say to kids, it's OK to be an artist. You must appreciate your culture because it broadens and uplifts you and gives you confidence."

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