'This land is your land
This land is my land
This land belongs to you and me'
It was a historic year in South Africa when television was launched. Soweto went up in flames. In June 1976 the Soweto Uprising which was the loudest fight was about language (even though the issue of land was a subtext). There weren't any loud political slogans about land but Des Lindberg strummed his guitar and Dawn Lindberg with her bright eyes, cheery smile frolicked along singing, 'This land is your land, this is my land and this land belongs to you and me', without the Nationalist government silencing them from singing a song that Dawn in later years said was in opposition to everything that the apartheid government stood for but that the government did not understand the song.
Dawn Lindberg fought apartheid through song and her passionate believe that theatre would always remain one of South Africa's greatest uniting forces. Her early production of Godspell was banned by the Nationalist government because of its multi-racial casting. It didn't deter Dawn from staging the show. She took it across the border to a neighbouring State.
The defiant Dawn Lindberg always wanted theatre to be open to all races. In the 70's and 80's she opened her Houghton home for soirees; and whilst the audiences may have been mainly White not through any forced restrictions by Dawn there was no doubt that Dawn launched many careers of Black, White, Coloured and Indian artists from her home.
Dawn Lindberg - along with Des Lindberg - were beacons of hope for South African theatre. They were strong voices against censorship. Their contributions to anti-censorship and non-racism in theatre is written in the history books of South African theatre; but unfortunately some day this contribution that they made may fade from the pages of history books because history gets written for successive generations by those who wish to tell it their way.
Dawn channeled the Naledi Theatre Awards through stormy seas. It wasn't just about fighting criticism from those who hadn't been nominated or won awards - or who were upset because they were not given a front row VIP seat at the awards ceremony - it was also about fighting her jury and the Naledi Theatre board about decisions they'd taken. She was also in the frontlines when it was necessary to fight the past and the current government to give the arts the recognition that it deserves.
The Naledi Theatre Awards will never ever be the same again. There will be no Dawn in her flowing red dress. There'll be no Dawn Lindberg whose beautiful teeth will smile like pearls. There'll be no Dawn Lindberg whose bright cheery eyes will set our heartbeats racing. There'll be no Dawn Lindberg who amongst her thousand pearls of wisdom will say the one unfortunate thing that will get us talking in corridors and social media for weeks on end. There isn't a force in South African theatre at the moment that was as great as Dawn Lindberg. It will take many giants to rise next year to make the Naledi Theatre Awards happen with the same amount of finesse, grace, controversy, bitter gossip and joyful celebration which was what made the Awards an extension of what theatre ought to be -- no simple story with predictable endings.
Dawn's untimely passing was also not predictable. News of her death from a Covid-19 related illness spread like wildfire on social media from the early hours of this morning with tributes pouring in from across this land that is your land; that is my land.
From wherever her soul will soar and from whichever skies the stars still twinkle the brightest amongst those stars in the night skies will be the star in the red dress dancing royally amongst the stars that Dawn has so passionately nurtured. There is hardly a star today in our industry that doesn't twinkle with sorrow. There is hardly a star who wouldn't want our theatres to re-open. If there is now going to be one celestial being that will fight Covid-19 and knock it in the bud so that it gets itself out of this land that is your land that is my land it better be Dawn Lindberg.
We salute you, Dawn Lindberg. Find your journey amongst amongst the stars; and we shall always look up to the night sky searching out for you.
Ismail Mahomed, former chief executive officer at the Market Theatre Foundation,