Condolences continue to flood social media over the actress’ demise in a Cape Town guest house room.
By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
Talented South African actress Shaleen Surtie-Richards has died. She passed on yesterday at a Guest House in Cape Town. Her body was found on Monday, June, 7, 2021, in her room at the guest house. The actress was booked there while at work shooting a production. The cause of her death was not disclosed. What is clear though is that with her death the country has lost a professional artist whose iconic roles on the big screen and on TV have amassed a huge number of followers across colour, age and race.
She was loved by both young and old, both black and white in equal measure. This is not a mean feat to achieve in a country whose entertainment taste sometimes is fragmented based on race and culture. But with her, she seemed to fit in nicely in this complicated race matrix of South African society that is more often than not, the cause of divisions instead of unity. But in rare times such as in the veteran actress’s case, entertainment tastes are blurred and the race division is ignored.
No wonder why her demise was met with a huge reaction by South Africans who have loved her roles, across race and age over the years. She died at a relatively young age of 66, while very much part of the current crop of entertainers making especially TV audiences glowed to their screens during these uncertain times of Covid-19, when a large number of people find themselves confided in their homes, and therefore needing entertainment now more than ever.
By yesterday details surrounding the cause of her death were not revealed although sources said that in recent weeks her health was failing as she struggled with breathing. The actress hailed from Upington, Northern Cape, but at the time of her demise she was a national figure admired by fans from all over the country who could not have enough of her on TV and films.
“Darling Shaleen, you were one of the best of the best….I will never forget what you brought to Hester in Hello and Goodbye or rather Hello en Koebaai with Royston Stoffels ..We all have so many memories of you giving your all on stage…Rest in Peace..You should have been comfortable in your life considering your vast body of work…The arts in South Africa thrive because of talents like you but you are not appreciated or rewarded …..The sector has to change….our artists cannot keep dying and suffering in poverty,” a facebooker wrote in honour of the actress.
“The devastating part of the death of legendary South Africa actress and entertainer Shalene Surtie-Richards is the fact that she won more than 40 awards during her illustrious career yet died a virtual pauper due to lack of work prior to and exacerbated of course by draconian lockdown measures that continues to destroy the lives of artists (and other fields such as tourism). Her candid, no-holds-barred interview over a year ago on the Afrikaans DSTV network Kyknet, Kwêla programme still rings hollow when she disclosed how she became financially ruined primarily due to lack of work while friends such Doreen Morris having to buy her food, pay towards chronic medication (as she lost her medical aid) she required, as well as bond repayments,.wrote Simone Heradien on facebook, insinuating that she may not have died in comfort financially, especially considering how large she loomed on TV with leading roles.
However CITYLIFE/ARTS last night could not ascertain the veracity of the allegations of the actress dying poor.
However if the claims of the veteran actress having died with nothing turn out to be correct, it will disturbingly add to the now broken record of South African artists increasingly dying poor, a world often in sharp contrast to the world of the rich and powerful that some of the. roles require them to portray.