OBITUARY | Shaleen Surtie-Richards’s weapons were laughter and ...

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OBITUARY | Shaleen Surtie-Richards’s weapons were laughter and love

Untrained but a consummate professional, witty and wonderful, SA’s undisputed national treasure has died

Chris Barron

Shaleen Surtie-Richards, who has died in Cape Town at the age of 66, was one of the biggest and best-loved stars of stage, film and television in SA.

She was known to millions of South Africans as Nenna in soap opera Egoli: Place of Gold, and for her searing role as Fiela in the 1988 film Fiela se Kind. Set in the Knysna forest in the 19th century, it told the story of a coloured woman, Fiela, who adopted and loved as her own a white boy she found abandoned on her doorstep, who was removed from the bosom of his new family in the interests of enforcing segregation.

Herself a person of colour born in the apartheid-ridden town of Upington in the northern Cape on May 7 1955, Surtie-Richards brought to her role an authenticity so powerful it opened more white eyes to the unspeakable cruelty of apartheid than any other individual screen performance in SA ever had...

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