Tributes poured in after news broke that Dawn Lindberg had died of Covid-19 complications on 7 December at the age of 75.
The doyen of the South African theatre and entertainer was also the founder and CEO of the Naledi Theatre Awards, which released a statement mourning her passing.
“I am devastated. Long life to her wonderful family,” Chris Avant-Smith of the Naledi Awards said on his Facebook page. “She was a legend of the performing arts in South Africa.”
Chris shared a video (filmed on 1 December) of Dawn on 2 December where she was due to hand out two top awards to winners at The South African State Theatre. She presented the awards virtually and spoke about testing positive for Covid-19.
“I was so looking forward to celebrating with all of you tonight, applauding your success and sharing in the joy of your ceremony this evening at the State Theatre. I am afraid Covid-19 has deprived me of the honour of helping to hand over the Naledi trophies to the winners in person.
“I tested Covid-positive and so I am in quarantine with my husband, Des, locked down in Plettenberg Bay, the latest hotspot,” she said in the video.
Tragically, six days later she had passed away.
Dawn studied fine art at Wits University and in 1962 she met her husband, Des Lindberg. “He was like a gentle Viking, tall, with blond hair falling over his eyes, and a guitar slung over his back,” she said during an interview in 2015.
By that time Des had already established himself as a folk singer and he achieved huge success with the fun, catchy song Die Gezoem van die Bye (The buzz of the bees). The couple went onto form the folk duo Des & Dawn more than 50 years ago and had a string of hits, most notably with The Seagull’s Name was Nelson.
Dawn and Des (78) became household names in South Africa, known and loved for their shared passion for the stage. Yet they always wanted to be more than entertainers and do their part in changing the country during the apartheid years, and were described as “real anti-apartheid campaigners especially around theatre”.
Their first album, Folk on Trek (1967), was banned on the grounds of obscenity. They appealed the ban but lost and all copies of the album were destroyed.
In 1973, Des & Dawn produced the musical Godspell, which was the first stage production featuring a multi-racial cast. The actors had to rehearse on the lawns of Des and Dawn’s Victorian home in Johannesburg and the grand opening of the production was held in a theatre specially built for them at Holiday Inn in Maseru, Lesotho.
Godspell was banned in SA on the grounds of blasphemy but Des and Dawn took the case to the Supreme Court and won. The production then went on to tour the country for 18 months.
Dawn’s influence in the theatre industry has been significant because she believed that “theatre and the arts are much more reflective of our current society and the demographics of the practitioners”.
Dawn is survived by her husband, sons Joshua and Adam and grandchildren Zaria and Shia.