JOHANNESBURG – Nyalleng Thibedi had big dreams of success as a young girl growing up in Soweto.She worked hard to reach her goals but the journey to fame was almost destroyed by an abusive relationship.“I remember my last moments in that situation was when I felt like I was going to lose my life,” she said.Thibedi was cast in the role of Mpho Rankwane, the wife of Tsietsi Namane in the local drama series Ashes to Ashes.
She returned to South Africa in 2010 after studying drama for six years in the USA.It was during this time overseas when Thibedi became a victim of domestic violence.The abuse started off as emotional.“When someone tells you that you’re unworthy, you’re a good for nothing, by the time the abuse gets physical, they have worked so hard at breaking your spirit, there’s no way its not going to affect you,” she said.
Thibedi says she grew up around a loving family so the first time she was hit it was a surprise because she had never seen a man raise a hand to a woman before.“It was shocking, I didn’t know how to deal with it. The best way I knew how was not to say anything about it,” said the actress.
Thibedi said she stayed in the relationship because she thought the man would change his behavior at some point.This experience helped Thibedi translate the storyline of Mpho on screen.In the first season of Ashes to Ashes Mpho falls in love with her husband’s brother Monwabisi Namane.When her husband Tsietsi finds out about the affair he starts to abuse Mpho.
Mpho is raped by her husband Tsietsi in Ashes to Ashes.Thibedi says this highlights an important issue in South Africa. where the first ever rape conviction within a marriage, occurred only in 2012.
The way that Thibedi broke free from the abuse was to tell her sister.“Silence perpetuates abuse because they isolate you and you cannot talk to anyone,” she said.Thibedi said that acting has helped in her healing process, which is still ongoing.She hopes that other women going through a similar situation can have the courage to talk to someone and break free from their abusive relationships.Awareness campaigns that run during Women’s month help to break the silence around issues domestic violence said Thibedi.
Before Thibedi became an actress, she qualified as a chemical engineer at the University of Cape Town.