Word artist, designer and cricket analyst for Lingwalagwala FM, Xolile Mabuza, aims to become the first black female to commentate in SiSwati.
Hailing from Msogwaba village in Mbombela, the 23-year-old finds herself included in the ICC Leaders Program, which is designed to integrate a lot more women into the sport.
Mabuza grew up struggling with bullying and depression, but found solace in cricket as it brought light into her life.
Speaking with Nonto Nothana, Mabuza shares her goals and aspirations after the ICC Leaders Program and reveals her role models.
Xolile, thank you for making time to chat with us! Please tell us about yourself.
Xolile Mabuza is a 23-year-old from a village called Msogwaba outside Mbombela. I’m a spoken word artist, designer and cricket analyst for Lingwalagwala FM. After matric I couldn’t further my studies, so I ended writing and performing poetry. I started writing cricket reviews because I watched a lot of cricket.
Congratulations on being chosen for the ICC Leaders Program. How did that make you feel?
Thank you. I received the news on the 1st of June and in my mind I had already concluded that I didn’t make it because ICC said they will notify successful candidates on the 17th of May, so when I didn’t hear from the ICC I concluded that my application was not successful. I was a bit hurt but I was more grateful knowing a programme like this exists and I would apply the following year. When I received the email stating that I had been selected, I cried and screamed. I was extremely happy, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was just grateful for this dream that is slowly becoming a reality. By the way, I’m still on cloud nine! I still need to wake up to go check my name on the ICC website and scream: “Yes Xolile, yes you beautiful woman.”
“Poetry might have walked me out of depression but Cricket called me back to light and to life, it gave me hope when I had none, to me cricket is more than just a sport, it is light and the holiest sport”- Xolile Mabuza speaks on how she escaped depression.
Why is cricket so important in your life?
2016 was a difficult year, a lot of things resurfaced including all the bullying I received throughout my school life, the fear of being alive and being Xolile in this world. I’ve always felt I didn’t belong. I struggled to deal with a lot of things, including keeping my head above water and I was so depressed, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had to write myself out of the dark space I was in and most of the time, I struggled to put words together about my feelings.
Cricket became my sleeping pill, every time I was depressed and anxiety was skinning me alive, I would watch a test match and fall asleep, wake up later feeling strong enough to write. Poetry might have walked me out of depression but Cricket called me back to light and life. It gave me hope when I had none, to me cricket is more than just a sport, it is light and the holiest sport.
What was life like growing up in Msogwaba?
“I had different dreams from everyone and it was difficult for the community to support or understand my dreams at first.” – Mabuza speaks on her goals and dreams growing up in the village of Msogwaba.
Villages are sacred places; they are the best place for one to grow up in. I grew up around a happy and supportive family and community where everyone is family and the responsibility of raising a child is shared by the whole community. I had different dreams from everyone and it was difficult for the community to support or understand my dreams at first.
You are a designer, writer, poem performer and cricket reviewer for Lingwalangwala FM. How do you balance all of that?
To be honest, all these things balance themselves by watering each other. I was a spoken word artist before everything and because I was writing and performing poetry it became easy for me to believe in my voice and that it is strong and beautiful enough to carry a cricket match, the gift of words helped me paint pictures of what happens in the cricket field during matches which is commentating.
Being a designer makes room for new ideas and creativity. So everything works together and because of that I don’t have to do much to balance being a spoken artist, cricket reviewer and designer, the only thing I do is keep the love burning for all three.
Being chosen to be part for the ICC Leaders definitely has to be your biggest career highlight so far, what do you want to achieve or learn out of this program?
Being chosen by the ICC for this programme is my biggest career highlight so far. From this mentorship programme I want to learn how to be the best ambassador of the game of cricket through commentating. I want to learn more about the broadcasting side of cricket commentating, what to do and what not to do when commentating and how I can bring SiSwati into the picture. My biggest achievement after this programme would be becoming the first black female cricket commentator to commentate in SiSwati and English, also to commentate alongside my favourite commentators at the 2023 World Cup.
Who are your role models in cricket and why?
Natalie Germanos, she’s an amazing and calm commentator, she makes commentating look graceful. When I had a chat with her about my dream, she believed in me and held so much space for me to work on my dream by helping me build my confidence and mentoring me.
Kass Naidoo, she’s a force, she makes women in sport look beautiful.
What keeps you motivated to not give up on your dreams?
The sun. As long as the sun rises in the morning I am always motivated to rise with it. My supportive mom, dad and my two sisters, my best friend and my uncle who also remind me that I’m a star that has already met the sun for light, I’m a magical being, powerful and beautiful.
What are your goals and aspirations for your cricket career?
Becoming a cricket commentator and commentate in SiSwati, create space and opportunities in cricket for young people in different villages who wish to play cricket and be commentators. The goal is to become a cricket ambassador and be selfless enough to be the hero to children, mostly girls in my village. Lastly, I hope to bring literature and cricket together and convert what happens in the field during matches to beautiful poems.
What advice would you give to a young woman looking to succeed in the sport industry?
The advice that I would give to young women is that they should never stop dreaming, believing and working on their dreams. A dream shared is a dream come true.
Photo 1 Caption: Word artist, designer and cricket analyst for Lingwalagwala FM, Xolile Mabuza, aims to become the first black female to commentate in SiSwati. Photo: Supplied