South African actor, author, music composer and producer Mondli Makhoba was born in Durban and raised in Emacambini in the north of KZN. Passionate about storytelling and using his craft to change people’s lives for the better, Mondli is a modern man rooted in the traditional values of Africa and its people. Whether playing Mkhize in Isibaya, Nkosana in The Wife or Ngomane in the hit series Shaka iLembe, his masculinity comes through in a way that is gentle yet strong, quiet yet present and refreshingly modern while remaining timeless. A husband, father, actor, and producer – he takes his craft seriously, whatever role he’s faced with.
When German manufacturer Mäurer & Wirtz created Tabac in 1959, their vision was to introduce a down-to-earth, authentic, and reliable range of grooming products for men. Granted, back then the concept of masculinity was rather straightforward and binary. Today, one would be forgiven for taking a beat before fully defining what “masculinity” has come to mean for the modern man. Because it is a social construct, the idea of masculinity tends to shift and change with time as newer generations redefine it for themselves. As an identity, it can be reshaped to suit the wearer.
This is why it is no small feat for a brand to capture the essence of modern masculinity while remaining steeped in its traditional values. We talked to the brand’s well-suited ambassador Mondli Makhoba and this is what he had to say:
As we wrap up Heritage Month, you also recently celebrated the wrapping up of season 1 of Shaka Ilembe. In your words why is it important for stories like this to be told?
The story of Ilembe is an important one, for it is not only a Zulu story, or KwaZulu Natal story, or a South African story nor it is only an African story. It is a global story. The king’s impact is globally known. The king’s presence can still be felt today. The Zulu Nation exists today as evidence of the king and the vision the king had. Therefore, it is imperative for it to be told in the eyes and feelings of the king’s people so that the descendants of the king can see, feel, and understand how this great nation came into existence. Telling it gave the spirits of the great heroes prior to and during the king’s time the opportunity to show themselves, as they connected with those they chose to tell it. So, it is important to tell it.
What kind of mental, emotional, and physical preparation did you have to do to be fit for your role as Ngomane?
In preparation for the role of the great general of Abathethwa, Ngomane of Mqomboli, I had to call upon my great ancestors to prepare me. Manzini, one of my direct ancestors lived during the time just before the king was born. My great ancestor Joko lived during the time of the king. I had to call upon them to introduce me to the spirit of Ngomane so that he himself would tell his story through me, and he did. This was my spiritual preparation. Physically, I had to hit the gym to look fit and have the stamina to draw strength from. As we shot in winter, I started bathing in cold water to enhance my body’s tolerance for cold winter night shoots. I also had conversations with Mr. Mtaka who made sure that culturally we were correct. Mr. Mdletshe, who is a direct descendant of Ngomane shared his stories with me as well, which helped a lot. Mentally, I was ready to go wherever the story led me to.
The grooming techniques of the times of Shaka, much like the definition of what manhood was then have shifted drastically. How do you define manliness in 2023?
Manliness is now defined differently compared to the times of the king and the great warriors of that time. It is no longer outward (physically) but mostly internal. Today a man needs to be emotionally understanding, emotionally present, mentally fit and have a clear vision of where he is going. He needs to be calm and sure of himself. He needs to be loyal to his vision like Tabac has been for the past 64 years. He needs to be long-lasting. He needs to be original and true to himself. He needs to be understanding of all seasons of his life, he needs to understand what anything was, is and will be, like Tabac catering for the past, the present and the future.
What does your daily, weekly, and monthly grooming regime consist of?
I live in the blessing of the job that I do. It allows me to do my work, which is to heal the creator’s work (people) through entertainment, motivational speaking, grooming young boys through the Mondli Makhoba Foundation and projecting love to all those whom I’m privileged to meet and converse with. I have a very busy schedule, my days are hectic at times, therefore it is important that I look and feel good for that gives me confidence. I am humbled by the fact that Tabac saw me and my work as worthy of a partnership. A man needs to have a good-looking and well-maintained beard, Tabac helps do that every day. I use Tabac Original Beard Shampoo & Conditioner to make sure that my beard is clean. I then use the Original Beard and Shaving Oil to make sure that it doesn’t break, and it always feels soft. I then wear Tabac Original cologne for the fresh smell that boosts my confidence, because when I smell good, I feel great, and with that feeling nothing can stand in my way. My daily routine becomes weeks and months with a few changes of Tabac products depending on how I want to feel on the day.
Tabac also tells a story of legacy much like Shaka Ilembe, do you agree and why did you feel the brand aligns with your values?
Yes, I do agree. I think Tabac and I are aligned because Tabac is a brand that is down to earth, original and has been able to withstand the test of time. I identify myself as a rooted and cultured man who is very passionate about men and their place in society. Tabac is a grooming brand for men and with the Mondli Makhoba Foundation’s main purpose being to groom boys to men, the alignment is visible. Respect is a big thing for me, Tabac is a brand that speaks to all generations, and it allows for values to be passed on and that means respect can be shared from generation to generation during the grooming process. I am honoured to be a vessel that is used to impact lives and contribute to shaping the future.