Moonyeenn Lee has died from a Covid-19-related illness at the weekend. She was renowned as one of SA's leading agents.Picture: Facebook
Moonyeenn Lee has died from a Covid-19-related illness at the weekend. She was renowned as one of SA's leading agents.Picture: Facebook

Covid-19 and cancer claim lives of two of SA film, TV giants

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published Jul 20, 2020

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Tributes continue to pour in for actress Elize Cawood, who died on Saturday at the age of 68 from lung cancer.

Fellow actors and fans shared their memories of the award-winning actress on social media.

Industry icon veteran John Kani called her one of the country’s greatest stage and film actors.

Cawood’s rich career, which began in 1974, saw her feature on stage and on the small and big screen.

In 2018, she was one of the laureates to have a rose named after her at Ludwig’s Rose Farm. The pearl-white blooms recognise the actress’s contribution to theatre, film and TV.

Western Cape Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais said: “Elize Cawood was deeply embedded in the hearts and souls of South African audiences. She endeared herself to viewers with her role as a woman taken on an unexpected journey in the 1991 movie, Taxi 2 Soweto.”

“She took on a variety of roles and brought words to life for many audiences. She will be greatly missed as one of our country’s most important voices in the arts and culture sector.”

Cawood was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and in September last year was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Her daughter Jenna Dunster confirmed the actress’s passing on social media on Saturday.

“She was in no pain and both me and my father were there with her. Our worlds will never be the same without her, but we celebrate the exquisite human being that she was. Thank you to everyone for you love and support, we truly appreciate it, but would like some privacy during this time.”

Theatre lecturer Greg Homann called Cawood a giant. “Another sad day for South Africa’s stage and screen community. To have lost Elize Cawood and Mary Twala in such short succession. Giants have fallen, but they will not be forgotten.”

The SA Guild of Actors wrote in Twitter: “It is with great sadness that @SAGActors offers a farewell tribute in honour of #ElizeCawood Elize will live on in our hearts and memories. Our deepest sympathies to her family and friends for their loss.”

Thembisa Nxumalo (nee Mdoda) lauded Cawood as a national treasure. “The epitome of an all-rounder. Artist to the core. I’m so glad the world allowed her to stay that way, and still work #RIPElizeCawood.”

Cawood starred in productions such as Taxi 2 Soweto, Red Dust, Mad Buddies, Villa Rosa, Liefling, Dis Ek Anna, Isidingo, Binnelanders and Villa Rosa. She was most recently nominated for a Safta for her role in Skemerson.

This weekend also saw the death of South African casting agent Moonyeenn Lee. A statement posted on her associates page revealed that she succumbed to complications caused by the coronavirus.

Lee’s formidable reputation speaks for itself, with 47 years in the film industry. Her company Khulisa Productions made some of the most iconic local films, including Promised Land.

“Moonyeenn’s passion for South African stories and local talent was well known. Over the years, she would travel around the world introducing producers and directors to South African actors. She would always do everything in her power to convince them to rather cast local actors over foreign actors. Her dedication eventually paid off as many international productions trusted her to cast locally.”

Her casting company, Moonyeenn Lee & Associates represented some of the best local talent.

She managed the casting of films such as The Bang Bang Club, Disgrace, the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, Oscar-nominated Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond, Oscar-shortlisted Black Panther and Life, Above All, Golden Globe nominees Machine Gun Preacher and Mandela and De Klerk, Emmy-winning series like Homeland, among many others.

Lee received the Lionel Ngakane Lifetime Achievement Award from the SA Film and TV Awards in 2017.

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