Young Brits farmer juggles acting and game farming

Thembi Zikalala (22) is not your ordinary young woman, she divides her time between being an actor in Johannesburg and her game resort near Brits where she farms with game and plays host to tourists who visit the resort.

Having finished her BA Live Performance Arts last year, she is currently an up and coming young actor, voice-over artist and dancer, but come the weekend, she is in the bush near Brits on the Zvedze Game Resort she co-owns.

“I live a double life,” she laughs. “In Johannesburg, I wear the wig, the make-up and high heels, but on the weekend and holidays, I am in the bush in my shorts, sans make-up and no wig. I love my double life. I can fit in everywhere and adapt and blend in with my environment. I feel a bit like a chameleon.”

Thembi’s love for the bush already started at a young age. “We lived on a small farm in Walkerville with all your regular farm animals and the neighbours had horses, so I used to ride. Then in 2013 my dad bought the 326 ha game farm at Brits and we all immediately fell in love with the bush and the game,” she says. Thembi is one of five children.

“I loved life on the farm. My dad taught me to shoot, hunt and handle snakes. I am a very accomplished shot and would like to do more professional training. It became the norm for me to see a giraffe walking by and watch the game around me. It is the most therapeutic sight. I love the evenings around a fire with braaivleis or potjiekos. Even in Johannesburg, I try and bring nature into our house with lots of plants. If I could I would even keep my snakes in Johannesburg, but it would kill my granny!” she laughs.

Her dad gave them all shares in the game farm and Thembi’s responsibility is to handle the tourism and wildlife side of the resort. “During our peak tourism season from September to December, I am responsible for the tourists, seeing to accommodation, bush camps and everything that goes along with a tourist venue.”

It is a juggle to keep a balance between her two worlds. “But I love this double life. It is both me and I love what I do.”

Thembi with one of her snakes

In Johannesburg, she works hard at building a professional live performance career. “I want to be versatile. I act, I do voice-overs and dance and I am working really hard to establish myself.” The short film “The little girl inside of me” in which she plays the lead role, was nominated for the annual prestigious Loerie Awards. “I am very interested in directing and will work in every field to become successful.”

“But the bush is never far. Whenever I can, I’m on the farm. I am really passionate about a career in this field as well. It is not often that you find a black girl following this career path and I am very proud of myself. I would just like to gain more knowledge and experience to make a success of it.”
Follow Thembi on Instagram at @tee.zikalala.