As painfully recounted in Music by Prudence, which received this year's Oscar for short-subject documentary, most of Mabhena's family abandoned or abused her—not an unusual fate in Zimbabwe, where disability is often attributed to witchcraft. Her fortunes began to turn at age 9, when she enrolled in the King George VI School in Bulawayo (one of the few learning centers for the disabled in the country) and formed Liyana with fellow students.
Coming home in March from the Academy Awards ceremony, Mabhena was thronged by well-wishers at the airport. "With the Oscar, she is now the most famous woman in Zimbabwe, celebrated by the society that once shunned her," says Music by Prudence director Roger Ross Williams. Currently, Mabhena is preparing for Liyana's U.S. tour later this year (check out their peppery, marimba-tickled songs at MusicByPrudence.com). "I want to show the world that disability does not mean inability," she says. "And I want someday to write a Broadway musical."
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