SA salutes Shaleen Surtie-Richards in Durbanville

A police procession marched in honour of the iconic actress at the funeral service.

The vibrant spirit of the late Shaleen Surtie-Richards, 66, burned brightly at Durbanville Memorial Park as relatives, friends and public figures all paid tribute to the South African icon.

The legendary actress, who was born in Upington, was found dead at a guest house in Cape Town on Monday 7 June.

President Cyril Ramaphosa granted permission for her to have a special provincial funeral, on Sunday, in recognition of her contribution to the arts.

“I can think of no better way to honour someone who has contributed so much to our province and country’s creative community and industry. The nation has lost a giant,” said Premier Alan Winde.

A large media contingent started arriving at the memorial site from 12.30pm.

A cortège of black Mercedes SUVs, all bearing the number plate “RIP Nenna” in homage to her popular role in the soapie Egoli, accompanied her coffin into the cemetery.

Alistair Isobell, the MC for the funeral service, introduced Michelle Surtie De Bruyn, who delivered the family’s tribute to her aunt, recalling her kind and humorous nature.

“As a family, we’ve experienced this nation’s love for Auntie Shaleen in a way I will never be able to articulate,” she said. “We knew Auntie Shaleen was famous, but this week, we realised she was loved way beyond our small gene pool.”

She recalled childhood memories of how her aunt, and her unmistakable voice, had filled their home with magic every time she had come to visit them and how glamorous she had looked.

“With her bangles swinging, lashes batting and her blonde hair blowing in the wind, it was like show-and-tell on steroids!

“Auntie Shaleen’s stories brought to life the history of the generations before her. She used to use them to guide us into adulthood, to teach us, to inspire us, and we laughed and cried listening to them, at her feet. Auntie Shaleen, we will raise our children doing exactly that. We will tell them about their aunt, funny and fabulous.”

Shaleen Surtie-Richards’s colleagues, from left, Royston Stoffels, June van Merch and Basil Appollis, share their memories of her.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa call the actress a national treasure and saluted her contribution to nation building and social cohesion through drama, film and boundless creativity.

He said: “Upon hearing the news of her passing, President Ramaphosa had this to say: ’On stage and on screen, Shaleen Surtie-Richards held a mirror to our unjust past and gave us hope for our future as a nation.’

“Shaleen has succeeded through her work in telling a South African story in myriad ways. Through the various characters she has portrayed over the years and in being her ’unmistaken self’, she has taught us more about ourselves, about what makes us truly South Africans and what makes us truly human.”