Grace Ledwaba pays tribute to her best friend and fellow actress, Mary Makgatho, who died early this week. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA

SHE breathed life into everything; she had an amazing smile; the most joyous, brilliant of laughs that filled the room; and a personality that spilled over into your spirit.

This is what speakers at the memorial service of Mary Makgatho, who died on Monday morning after complications from a fall in July, said of the actress when they remembered her at the Breytenbach Theatre in Sunnyside yesterday.

The day was her birthday; the Soshanguve born actress would have have turned 53.

The mood at the service was sombre and the air was thick with grief as industry giants such as Motshabi Tyelele, Molefi Monaisa, Peter Mashigo and Boikie Pholo mourned the passing of the veteran actress.

Tyelele broke out in song as she said that her late friend loved life and “was always in song”.

She said she could not bear the pain and tears started rolling down her face as she recalled the memories made with Makhatho.

She described the woman who had featured on the small screen for years, as an actress of a high calibre and was pained by her passing.

“She is irreplaceable as she represented all the voiceless women in the continent.

“She was respectful, humble and passionate and not arrogant,” Tyelele said.

She said she would miss her and told other mourners to go with an open heart to the funeral so that Makgatho could rest in peace.

Director Neo Matsunyane told the mourners that he was thrown by the death, of what he described as a brilliant woman when it came to her craft.

She was always professional, he said.

“It was one hell of a surprise the one thing I remember about her is the professionalism she carried and the commitment she had for her craft,” he said.

Motsunyane recalled how Makgatho always gave her all to everything that she did and remembered her during the time they worked together on an SABC2 drama series Kelebone, in 1998.

He remembered how while on Sesame Street, she was keen on learning other languages.

He took the time to vent on industry struggles and said that the old guards, who were veteran actors and actresses, were being neglected and very few people were empowered within the arts industry.

He said the arts industry was cruel.

“We do a body of work where people call us legends, but not having anything to show. People neglect the arts for something superficial,” Matsunyane said.

Makgatho was well known for roles played in Rhythm City, Duma, Ga Re Dumele and Yizo Yizo, among others. Industry colleague Tony Kgoroge said it had been a difficult two years in the arts industry as they lost people they still needed within the industry.

Kgoroge remembered how, when he was first elected chairperson of the Creative and Cultural Industries Federation of South Africa, the late Makgatho was happy for him and said he should be head strong.

“She was happy I was given the role and said exactly these words: ‘Stay there because you understand the industry’,” he said.

Family representative Lazarus Moloi said her memory would live in their hearts and they were proud of the person she was.

Makgatho was not married and had no children, and yesterday her siblings were at the service to remember her.

Moloi told mourners that she would be buried in Soshanguve on Sunday.