Final curtain call for theatre icon
Dignitaries, family honour Winston Ntshona at state funeral
A sombre yet celebratory mood was felt yesterday when friends and family bade farewell to theatre doyen Dr Winston Ntshona.
The unrelenting rain did not deter mourners and theatre lovers from filling the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton for the category-two provincial funeral which waswell attended by dignitaries from all spheres of government.
Ntshona died after a long illness at the age of 76 in New Brighton on Thursday last week.
Speaker after speaker described the international award-winning actor, author and playwright as someone who had unconditional love for his community and theatre development in Port Elizabeth.
Speaking on behalf of his children, Ntshona’s eldest daughter, Nomfundo Sonjica, described her father as someone who showed each of her siblings the true meaning of unconditional love.
Sonjica reminisced about the days her father got her ready for school and then visited her at creche to find out how her day was going.
“He had a great love for us. He used to say there is one fundamental thing in life and that is to preach and practise love to your family.
“My dad taught us how to be disciplined in order to achieve. He always said our surname would not get us anywhere without hard work,” she said.
As a PAC member, Ntshona used theatre to ridicule and expose the harsh realities of the apartheid regime.Artists who were groomed by Ntshona, formed a guard of honour as fellow actress Nomhle Nkonyeni, who started working with Ntshona and Athol Fugard in the 1960s as part of the Serpent Players group, shared her experience of the anti-apartheid activists.“We worked with ‘Cousin’ [Ntshona] without getting paid as we were amateurs, but we wanted to reveal the harsh realities of the apartheid regime.”
Arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa commended Ntshona for not leaving the Eastern Cape and for contributing to developing the arts in the province.
“He was not occupied by self-gratification, but all through his life he was preoccupied with building and teaching others. He indeed served others.
“He gave freely of his time to the new generation. For him it was the artist’s obligation to serve one’s people and to fulfil a public role.“Art had to question and expose injustice and make sense of the world in order to change it for the better,” he said.
Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle described Ntshona as a patriot.
“Ntshona inspired all of us to strive for excellence, freedom, humanity and justice.
“He has given much more to humanity than he has asked for himself. That alone is enough to let us know that he played his role here on Earth.
“He [gave] so much of himself, it becomes clearer that an enduring and ever-present awareness of the injustices and the love of his people drove him to heights he could never imagine.”
Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor Athol Trollip and EFF national chair Advocate Dali Mpofu were among others who attended.
The bustling Moduka Road came to a standstill as Ntshona’s coffin was taken on a ceremonial procession to Zwide Heroes’ Acre, which will be his last resting place.