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TRIBUTE TO KESSIE GOVENDER (article first published : 2002-02-7)

Actor, playwright, director, musician and artist. All disciplines sat comfortably on the shoulders of the late Kessie Govender who died in Durban a few weeks ago. He served Durban Arts Association for many years both on the Drama advisory committee and on the Board of Directors. This tribute is penned by Dr TP Naidoo, Board Member of the Durban Arts Association since its inception:

Kessie Govender could aptly be called “The Poor Man’s Actor, Producer and Entertainer.” His life was dedicated to theatre, which served the poor and encouraged the disadvantaged communities.

He made a grand entrance into theatre during the early 1960s together with his cousin Ronnie Govender and other actors under the banner of the Shah Theatre Academy. These fledgling actors took on the apartheid regime head on and exposed all forms of discrimination and injustices.

Kessie was regarded as one of the most humble members of the theatre fraternity. No amount of awards and accolades made Govender turn away from the humbleness, which he always portrayed with a good sense of humour. Apart from acting on stage, he also performed in several television productions.

I remember Kessie as a young man when he was literally mad about promoting theatre. But like so many young people of his time he struggled for encouragement and resources. It was a problem that would dog him throughout his life. He was determined to succeed. His last production A Working Class Hero was his biggest success. Looking back I think it was his grand finale to the world of theatre.

He had many talents. He was an excellent speaker who, when in a bad mood could cut anyone down with his wry wit and devastating sarcasm. He was a painter, sculpture, poet, actor, producer, writer.

Kessie Govender will be sorely missed at Durban Arts where he left a mixed following of good friends and some angry critics. On quite a few occasions he would stick his pipe in his mouth and take on Board Members if he felt that the cause of the arts was being trampled on. On other occasions he would passionately plead for extra funds to mount projects in the townships which he loved dearly. Kessie Govender was a champion for the arts for the poor.

His loss comes at a time when organisations to which he belonged such as Durban Arts are striving to put into place ambitious projects for the disadvantaged communities for whom he was such a consistence champion.

“Kessie, You have left us to act on in the beyond, but your memories are there!”




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