7de Laan’s brainy Matrone

Whether she’s celebrating Christmas in Paris, lunching in the Western Cape or booking into a hotel in Damascus someone is bound to recognise her.

During her travels in the Middle East several years ago 7de Laan’s Matrone Netta Nortjé had to dish out autographs and have photographs taken with South African tourists.

But the role does sometimes get her down, actressAnnelize van der Ryst-Hattingh says with a sigh. But there’s a side to her that 7de Laan fans might not know about.

Last year Annelize achieved honours in ancient Near Eastern studies at Unisa and she’s registered for a master’s degree. ‘‘I want to keep learning because I’m inquisitive about the people of the ancient civilizations,’’ she says.

Her interest in ancient Near Eastern studies started after she’d done drama at Stellenbosch University and later theology at Unisa.

But reading about these places and their people didn’t satisfy her curiosity; she wanted to experience them first-hand. In the late ’70s she joined a group of archaeology students on a trip to Palestine to visit an archaeological dig.

In 2004 she graduated from Stellenbosch University with a degree in Biblical interpretation and in 2007 registered for honours at Unisa.

Since then Annelize has visited Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. ‘‘Each trip has been fantastic. It’s as if a door has been opened onto something I could never have imagined.’’

She recently added Hattingh to her surname. An adopted child, she tracked down her biological parents about 20 years ago and decided to acknowledge both her adoptive and biological parents by using the two surnames as her professional name.

‘‘I’m proud of my roots and now in my later years have decided to honour both names.’’

Read the full article in YOU, 17 March 2011.