Mpumelelo Grootboom, controversial and liberal playwright was born in Meadowlands, Soweto in 1975, were he was raised by his grandparents. He was a year old when the student riots broke out on 16 June 1976. Grootboom was a pupil at MorutaThutho Primary School, Meadowlands, from grade one to grade seven. His Grandmother was the Principal and had a set path for Grootboom’s future.

After completing primary school, he was enrolled at Mokgoma High School in Meadowlands and attended for two years; grade eight and nine.

His grandparents decided to relocate to Garankuwa, North of Pretoria to live with his aunt. Grootboom attended at Odi High School in Hebron, North of Pretoria where he completed grade twelve. While attending at Odi High School, he developed an extreme interest in Shakespeare’s English literature and Drama, particularly King Lear, which became his favorite play. Grootboom was not involved in any school plays. But he enjoyed reading and critically analyzing Shakespeare’s style of writing.

After completing grade 12, his parents insisted that he study Medicine. He enrolled for a Bachelor of Science in Medicine at the University of Witwatersrand, which would have taken seven years to complete. Grootboom had no interest in Medicine and dropped out after three months of being a registered student at the university.

Grootboom then pursued studying the arts but that too did not work out as he had planned. It is while at the University of Witwatersrand, that he met Percy Langa, playwright and television director and producer. Langa took on the challenge of grooming Grootboom, teaching him to write film scripts. While under Langa’s wing, Grootboom was introduced to John Rogers, who trained him to write for television. Grootboom resided in Fourways, North of Johannesburg in Langa’s apartment.

His hunger and passion for writing increased significantly. He entered a script writing competition hosted by Mnet television. It is during this time that he met Barney Simon, a director at Mnet. Simon did not like Grootboom’s script but saw potential in his writing ability. He advised Grootboom to watch certain films to gain insight into writing plays. Unfortunately for Grootboom, Simon passed on before Grootboom was to re-enter the competition.

Grootboom had written a play about polygamy titled “What a wonderful world”. Grootboom’s writing career was beginning to pick-up. He met the likes of Aubrey Sekhabi, playwright and television producer. Sekhabi was impressed with his work and invited Grootboom to write a play named Enigma. In 2002, Grootboom took up the position of Development Officer at the South African State Theatre, where he was required to work with plays from community groups and actors that needed development. He began his career as a writer for stage and television. His stage credits include Enigma [1997]; not with my gun [co-written with Aubrey Sekhabi];  Cards, an  explicit and nude stage play [2001] and several other plays, one of which he co-wrote with Presley Chweneyegae, lead actor in the Oscar winning film “Tsotsi”.

Grootboom’s inspiration came from watching films that were out of the ordinary, explicit and endogenous. He was attracted to the extraordinary things that the human body could do. For example “Foreplay” one of his well known theatrical plays, dealt with hypocrisy. It is exploring such themes that makes Grootboom the most controversial playwright in South Africa, a society still largely “conservative”. 

His television engagements include Isidingo. a SABC3 soap opera [2000], Suburban bliss [1995], Soul city, an SABC1 health drama and Mponeng, SABC2’s sitcom.


An interview with Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom, by Kagiso Rafadi, 1 March 2011, South African History Online.

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