Nakhane left his hometown to start a new life after starring in a movie and receiving death threats.
Now, the musician, author and actor is coming Down Under.
The openly-gay man will perform in Launceston as part of Mona Foma this month.
Despite some reports saying the threats were the reason he left South Africa, he says that’s not entirely true.
“I left because I wanted to expand my career properly. But when I was home it was controversial and I had got death threats,” he said.
“I’ve been living in London for just over a year now. I love it, it’s great. I wanted a change, I wanted to do this in a country where no one knew who I was and start over.”
The death threats started after the 30-year-old starred in The Wound.
“The film is about a rite of passage in the community that I’m from. It’s a secret rite of passage and we made a film about it,” he said.
“It talked about things you’re not supposed to talk about. But not only did we make a film about it, we put queer characters in the film so it was almost like a double assault and people were quite angry.”
But, he said it did have some good outcomes.
“It started a really good dialogue. People were having a conversation nationally and even internationally,” he said.
Despite leaving his hometown to start a new life, his love for South Africa will always be there.
Born in the South East of Africa, Nakhane is from a town called Alice. He grew up in Port Elizabeth.
“Not only is the landscape beautiful, but I really love the culture,” he said.
“Our rituals and the way that people love and sing in the streets is something I really miss in London. It’s all I know. You can’t really explain it.”
Growing up in a musical family, where is mum and aunty were all classical singers, music became one of his main loves very early in his life.
Music like Mozart was all he knew until he moved to Johannesburg aged 14.
“My mum played a lot of Marvin Gaye and a lot of soul music in the car as I grew up, and it was all I knew,” he said.
At school, where he credits his upbringing for his career, he played piano, trombone, steel drum, marimbas, did musicals and sung in the choir.
“I’m very, very, very fond of where I came from because I wouldn’t be the artist I am told if it not for those things,” he said.
Nakhane was a passionate student during his schooling years, soaking up whatever knowledge he could.
Certain teachers pushed him harder, which made him respect them more.
“Certain teachers, like geography and history teachers that I liked expanded my idea of life outside of school, too,” he said.
“I didn’t know I had an ability to write pros until a teacher told me that after a bad essay that what I was writing was fiction and that I should go there and do it.”
His love for literature was also discovered during his school years. He read a lot as a child and then focused more on his school work as a teen, but in high school rediscovered the passion.
“It was authors like Michael Cunningham, James Baldwin and Tony Morrison. They were queer writers and they were writing about queer characters,” he said.
“James Baldwin made me realise that I’m naturally in the world and that there is nothing wrong with me. Michael Cunningham too, I suppose. But it was a little more difficult during the Cunningham books because he was so very, very, very white.”
A run-in with a very Christian-based church has inspired some of the songs on his latest album set to be performed at MoFo.
His family was Christian, which is widespread in South Africa, and he was raised in the religion.
“But, in my 20s I got into this very conservative church … it was all downhill from there.”
You Will Not Die, a pop album, explores his religious upbringing, his need to renounce Christianity after feeling that it was incompatible with his queerness, and his periods of depression and anxiety – but there’s also love, joy and self-acceptance.
Nakhane is excited to bring his tour to Australia and in particular Launceston, despite admittedly not knowing much about the state or the festival.
“I dread the December holidays and the Christmas season and normally because there is always something I have to do in January and then I have to wait,” he said.
“So I’d love to skip those holidays and jump into the Australian tour.”
Nakhane will play at MoFo on Sunday, January 20 at 4.45pm at the Inveresk Precinct.
Mofo will be held from January 13-20.