Jailoshini Naidoo. Picture: Instagram
Jailoshini Naidoo. Picture: Instagram

Jailoshini Naidoo pens heartfelt tribute to her mentor, Ronnie Govender

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Apr 30, 2021

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Award-winning actress, Jailoshini Naidoo is deeply saddened by the death of legendary activist, playwright, director and author, Ronnie Govender.

The theatre stalwart passed away on Thursday, April 29.

And his funeral was set to take place on Friday, April 30 at his home in Cape Town.

After hearing about his death, Naidoo penned a heartfelt tribute to Govender, who she referred to as her mentor, dear friend, confidant and “father figure”.

She wrote: “It is truly a sad day as we mourn the loss of one of South Africa’s greatest playwrights, a visionary, a man ahead of his time, a literary genius, Ronnie Govender.”

The actress said that her heart was sore and she could not stop the tears.

“We go back such a long way my friend and I’m overwhelmed right now as I think back on all the wonderful memories we shared.

“We have always been dear friends and confidantes, you were often a father figure to me, my mentor, my biggest supporter.

“Every time you wrote something new, I remember listening intently as you would eagerly read it to me over the phone, or you would just call to sing one of the Tamil songs you loved so much.

“We had the most profound, sometimes silly conversations and we always laughed so much,” she said.

She went on reminiscing about the first day she met Govender after performing in her third year at university and how he shook her hand and asked her to work with him.

“That was the start of an amazing working relationship. I eventually got the opportunity to perform some of your most brilliant work... both your Cato Manor stories, ’At the Edge’ and ’1949’, all over the country and internationally as well.

“I will always be so grateful for this opportunity to perform these amazing, inspiring stories as one woman shows, stories that brought to life a myriad of colourful, vibrant, dynamic characters who in turn touched our hearts, made us cry and also often made us laugh out loud.

“I saw a little of you in every one of those beautiful characters Ron, the strength, simplicity, humility, passion, determination, resilience,” said Naidoo.

She said the performances always challenged and grew her tremendously as an artist.

“The path that Ronnie Govender chose to walk, the path of artistic integrity was a lonely one demanding extraordinary courage.

“And courage was a quality Ronnie had in abundance. This, together with his fearlessness, strength, tenacity and his steadfast belief in his principles, made him a formidable force.

“The sincerity and honesty in his work always shone through. In time we will realise that the loss of this soul of towering artistic integrity is also such a major loss to the nation.”

Naidoo remembered Govender as a youthful, indomitable spirit with sharp wit and wry sense of humour.

"He had such a youthful, adventurous spirit, an incisiveness, an incredible presence, an energy, a refusal to accept things at face value, a restlessness, all the things that go towards making art of value.

“We have lost a man of brilliance, a giant , a man of conscience , a loving, dedicated husband, father, friend!

“Thank you for the many years of warm, sincere, loyal friendship, for your wisdom and affection and for your unconditional belief and faith in me.

“I will remember you always with so much love. Go well my dear friend.”

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