TBB Talks to … Anglican Priest, Author And Activist Mpho Tutu

Mpho Tutu is the daughter of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Following in her father’s footsteps she is an Anglican priest, activist and author. She co-authored the books Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference and The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and co-wrote the book Our World and Tutu: The Authorised Portrait; a biography about her father’s legacy.

As a public speaker, she has shared the stage with notable people such as The 14th Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Ken Robinson and advocates the importance of forgiveness.

Mission: JOY with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama is a documentary filmed over five days and captures the never-before-seen friendship between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

Packed with special footage, some prankish anecdotes and interviews with those close to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu including Mpho Tutu van Furth. We spoke to Mpho about the documentary and her father’s legacy.

Please introduce yourself…

My name is Mpho Tutu van Furth. I am a priest, a painter an author, a public speaker and teacher.

Please share a sentence or word that best describes your life right now …

My life right now is full of gratitude and grief.

As the daughter of iconic figure Desmond Tutu, I would imagine it’s a pressure that those of us without publicly renowned parents could ever imagine – what was it like growing up immersed in your father’s infamy?

We all grow up believing that our families are normal and everyone else has a family that is just different from ours. My father was only infamous to the apartheid government and those who kept that government in power. He was well known, first as a clergy person as I was growing up then as a leader in the anti-apartheid struggle in my teen years then, in my twenties, as a Nobel laureate. His fame was a bit of a curiosity to me. By the time he became world-renowned I was old enough to be secure in my relationship with him as a father.

How did you most connect with your father and what about him resonated most with you?

We connected in conversation and in laughter. The thing I was most conscious of was that my father took me seriously. He would take time to ponder and answer my questions. He would pause to listen to my opinion. As the youngest in the family that was not a given.

Mpho Tutu sharing Eucharist with HHDL

There is lots of media on your father out in the world – from film, to play, to written works and documentaries … what is it about Mission: JOY with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama – that enticed you to be involved and support its journey?

I was, at the time, Executive Director of the Legacy Foundation and was travelling with my father as an aide. I had met HHDL and enjoyed being with my father and his friend. No real enticement needed.

What’s so apparent is the love and respect your father and the Dalai Lama had for each other – what was it like to witness this first hand, and what was it from your perspective that connected them?

My father and HHDL take their spirituality seriously and joyfully. They met as men of prayer and men whose faith has demanded that they take courageous and not universally popular stands. They both have a sense of fun.

Being part of a film like this as someone who does not make film what was the biggest learning curve for you from filming to seeing the end result and how did you interact with the directors and team to ensure your father’s narrative in particular was accurately portrayed?

I didn’t have a large part in shaping the film. In the end, I viewed a rough cut and commented on what I saw.

Desmond Tutu & The Dalai Lama

The theme is finding joy during hardship – in the most simplistic explanation of the documentary – reflecting on your own personal journey which of your father’s survival tactics/ability to find joy and peace, have you adopted?

Joy and peace are practices. Like getting into your prayer place or brushing your teeth they are disciplines. As the AA says they work if you work them.

Please tell us about what you’re working on currently and are you continuing your father’s legacy in any way or are you forging a new path for yourself?

My father’s legacy is so broad that almost anything I can be involved in that brings more love into the world from growing trees on the Great Green Wall to mentoring women, to preaching and leading retreats and raising children could be said to continue my father’s legacy. And all of those things are also ways of forging my own path.

And finally please share the most memorable/impactful moment from the film that stood out to you?

The leave-taking.

Getting To Know You…
  • A book you have to have in your collection? Celtic Daily Prayer
  • A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Too varied
  • A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Big Bang Theory
  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? Sizwe Banzi is Dead. I didn’t fully understand it at the time, I was young. But i was captivated by having a world created in the space of a stage with two actors.

Mission: JOY with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama is available on BBC iPlayer.


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