Dance icon mourned

Dr Johaar Mosaval

Condolences have been pouring in for South African dance icon Dr Johaar Mosaval who died on Wednesday August 16 at the age of 95.

Mourners paid their last respects to Dr Mosaval in Surrey Estate before he was laid to rest according to Muslim rites in Constantia.

Dr Mosaval grew up in District Six as the eldest of 10 children. During Apartheid he left South Africa to pursue his dance dream and went on to carve out an illustrious career as a senior principal dancer with London’s Royal Ballet, between the 1950s and 1970s. It was during his tenure with the prestigious company that he performed before the late Queen Elizabeth at her 1953 coronation.

The Western Cape Government said it was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of a remarkable man in the arts who had faced great opposition under the Apartheid system when he started dancing in the 1940s.

“Sadly he was not given the opportunity to perform to his potential in South Africa due to the restrictions on access to theatres and stages. In 1950, two visiting dancers spotted his talent and assisted him to get a scholarship to attend Sadler’s Wells Ballet School in London. He would go on to join the Royal Ballet School and within another year he graduated into the Royal Ballet Company.

“Johaar’s ballet career continued for another 25 years as a principal dancer and he returned to South Africa in 1976. He opened his own ballet school in 1977 but it was shut down by the regime of the day.

Western Cape MEC of Cultural and Sport, Anroux Marais said: “Johaar Mosaval was a story of triumph in a dark time in our country. He was able to access opportunities for him to follow his passion for dance and he made a huge impact overseas. It is a tragedy and a devastating sign of the cruelty of apartheid that he was not recognised and celebrated in his own country during that time. We honour him as a legend of our country, who paved the way for other dancers.”

The production, Dreaming Dance in District Six: The Johaar Mosaval Story, was staged at the Artscape Opera House in March to honour Dr Mosaval who attended and narrated the show.

Speaking to the media at the show, Dr Mosaval said it was magnificent to see people watching his story and thanking him. “What I have achieved was all for the love of the arts and culture of South Africa and also for the people of South Africa.”

– Additional reporting from Tamlynne Thompson