Harriet Manamela as Mrs Maputla on Skeem Saam


HarrietWinning the 2011 SAFTAS for best supporting actress in the feature film Life Above All is a highlight in Harriet Manamela’s career.  Her roles in Life Above All were an actress, dialogue and acting coach all at the same time.  When attending the Cannes Film Festival, she received a ten minute standing ovation for the same film.

Harriet plays the role of Mrs Maputla in Skeem Saam; she says “my role is a mother who has to choose between saving her marriage and protecting her son from going to jail.  Skeem Saam portrays a usual South African middle class family faced with maintaining their family values of being good citizens or burying a deep dark secret to save face.

The impact of the show is how a small thing can grow too big when it is not dealt with in time. Parents will look at themselves and do self introspection when it comes to raising their kids, and youngsters will have time to reflect on their actions when it comes to self discipline.”

When Harriet finished school she studied drama at the Market Theatre Laboratory.  She has performed in several theatre productions at The Market Theatre, Grahamstown Festival, Holland, Sweden, Windybrow and State theatre. She has appeared in movies, television commercials and dramas.

In her leisure time Harriet enjoys staying home with a good book or going to watch plays.  She runs drama workshops in Alexandra and Pretoria and assists in acting and dialogue coaching especially for younger actors. She writes for stage productions and often judges festivals and television shows.

The late Ramolao Makhene is Harriet’s inspiration; she says “he was a phenomenal actor and my drama teacher, we called captain my captain. A year after I finished drama school I filmed a Soul City series with him and he said to me, ‘close your mouth and let your work talk for you.’  His passing is a great loss; he was a man who called a spade a spade.

“He always reminded us to have something to fall back onto because our passion would not pay the bills.  We were five girls in the class; he told us how tough the industry is for women and said we must find the strongest man in our souls to survive. That was back in ’95-96; today I know what he meant.”

The Colour Purple is Harriet’s favourite movie, “I first saw it when I was at drama school and realised that life is what you make of it. The bad we come across can be overcome and life will not always remain in the same spot.”

Her most memorable songs are Through the Falling Rain by Teddy Pendgrass, I Can’t Stop Loving You by Ray Charles, Still Water Runs Deep by Aretha Franklin and Masibambane by Ring Madlingozi.  Her favourite movie stars are Fana Mokoena, Pamela Nomvete, Ferry Jele, Sir Antony Hopkins and David Malckovich.

Harriet has no regrets “they are a waste of time, what’s done is done.  Disrespect makes her angry and the one thing she doesn’t like about herself is that she is inclined to be easily discouraged.  Her three children are her pride and joy.  She is scared of not being able to care for herself before she reaches old age, one thing she knows that’s ‘for sure’ in life is that life is unpredictable.

Watch Harriet Manamela as Mrs Maputla in Skeem Saam is on SABC1 Mondays to Fridays at 18h30.