In our own performing industry, we are still reeling from the demise of icon Johnny Clegg.
Yet now we have come not to mourn but to praise one of the most beloved theatre legends of our time - Nomhle Nkonyeni.
Nomhle had always known how to grab her audience’s attention, on screen and on stage, with her sassy, larger-than-life talent and personality.
Here are five short milestones of Nomhle Nkonyeni’s life:
1.She was born in Aggrey Road in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, in April 1942 and started her acting career in theatre at the age of 19.
2.She was best known for her TV productions such as Tsha-Tsha, Gaz’lam, Scandal and Igazi as well as the 2004 feature film Red Dust.
3.Her many roles in stage plays such as Die Swerfyare van Poppie Nongena saw her become one of the first black women to set foot on an apartheid stage in South Africa.
4.The Naledi Theatre Awards, of which I am the founder and CEO, had the honour of presenting Nomhle with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
In 2016, she was also recognised by Saftas.
In her acceptance speech of these honours, she said: “It’s my dream to leave a legacy behind. I don’t want God to ask me when I get up there what I’ve done with the talent he has given me.”
5.In June 2019, Aggrey Road in New Brighton was renamed after her. Speaking about this honour, Nomhle said: “I grew up in New Brighton. My relationship with that street is my church, Arthur Wellington Church, which was built in 1945. Every day I was in Aggrey, and I asked myself: ‘Who is Aggrey? Who is Gratten? Who are these people?’ Now I know, it’s me.”
Nomhle died on Wednesday, July 10, in hospital.
The multi-talented thespian was 77 and an extraordinary game-changer and activist. She was an actor, teacher and mentor and was in the process of establishing an arts academy in the Eastern Cape.
Indeed, she left a legacy!
I know that nothing would please the theatrical congregation more than to join me in bestowing on Nomhle Nkonyeni her final standing ovation.