Tributes for late Surtie-Richards pour in

Icon laid to rest
Adolf Kaure
Swakopmund • [email protected]

The Namibian film and theatre industry has reacted to the passing of well-known South African actress Shaleen Surtie-Richards.

The television, film and theatre actress paved the way for several persons of colour during the apartheid era, died at the age of 66 on 7 June 2021 in Cape Town.

She is well-known for her roles in Fiela Se Kind (1988), before becoming a household name by playing Nena (Ester Willemse) in the first South African daily soap opera Egoli: Place of Gold, which started production in 1992.

Lize Ehlers, who was named the Namibia Film and Theatre Awards - Best Actor in Theatre for 2007 as Leah B (directed by Tanya Terblanche) as well as for 2017 as Meisie van Mariental (directed by Sandy Rudd), said that Surtie-Richards played a big role in developing her acting career.

“Shaleen impacted my acting and performance career tremendously through her representation as a coloured woman on stage. Representation is a powerful tool of inspiration,” she said.

According to Ehlers, the death of Surtie-Richards is a huge loss to the film and theatre fraternity for both Southern Africa and Africa.

“It is painful to see such a powerful creative pass on, but her work has left timeless footprints in our community of actors and performers. In the same breath, it also just shows how incredibly far we are from securing creative royalties in Africa for actors, musicians and writers to live off their mountains of work.”

Ehlers said that the creative economy needs so much support and that it is scary how far the industry is from where it needs to be.

Elhers had the opportunity to meet Surtie-Richards in the capital city.

Another award-winning theatre actor, David Ndjavera, said that he was saddened by the death of the legendary actress.

“Her death has hit me hard because I idolised her based on her work.”

According to Ndjavera, Surtie-Richards inspired him to such an extent that she paved the way for him to venture into the world of theatre.

“When I was still young and beginning in the industry, being a scholar at Jan Jonker Afrikaner High School, we did a book called Kringe in die Bos. She was an actress in the dramatized version. She is one of those persons who got us into the industry and we are trying to live by their legacy.”

The late Surtie-Richards is known for acting in both English and Afrikaans, while bringing comic relief to serious situations during tough political times.

She was born in Upington on 7 May 1955. During her career that spanned more than 40 years, she won more than 40 awards for her excellence in the industry. This includes a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Naledi Theatre Awards in 2015.

Her other films include Mama Jack (2005) along with Leon Schuster as well as Knysna (2014). She also starred in other soap operas like 7de Laan, Villa Rosa and Generations.

The icon was buried on Sunday (13 June 2021) in Cape Town at Durbanville Memorial Park during an official provincial funeral. Her cause of her death is not yet known.