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Saturday, February 1, 2014


Friend and colleague, artist Professor Kiren Thathiah, pays tribute to the late Ravi Govender.

It is with a heavy heart that I offer this tribute to our late brother, friend and fellow artist, Ravi Govender and it is with great sadness that I offer our condolences to Vinosha and the rest of Ravi’s family.

My first recollection of Ravi was as a young student studying towards his degree in Fine Art at the University of Durban Westville. He showed a deep interest and love for his culture and religion and that enriched his study of Indian art which I taught at that time. He wanted his studies to be personally meaningful rather than a paperchase and that was enough for the both of us to become lifelong friends. He also had a deep love for sport and spent many hours with the Baker’s mini cricket development programme.

When he completed his first degree he wanted to study further towards his Masters. We had long discussions about what he wanted to do and what he wanted to achieve through his study. Eventually he indicated that he would research Hindu Temples in Johannesburg, where he was teaching at the time.

He also had to produce artworks as part of his submission and, again, he pushed deeper into his own beliefs and culture. It was earlier this very week that I was reminded of his great talent and perseverance when I looked at his painting that hangs in the Durban Art Gallery. It is a painting of Lord Krisna leaning against a cow and playing his flute. The painting is as blue as Lord Krisna himself and it is a deeply mystical painting invested with a genuine love for the divine. At least, people in the following generation can find a poignant reminder of his talent when they visit the Durban Art Gallery.

Our friendship continued long after he graduated and it was only fitting that he was appointed to the Documentation Centre in Durban. Here again he did a sterling job. The Centre grew from strength to strength under his guidance and leadership. I used to visit him there to discuss his studies and his art and he used to show me around the Centre with a great sense of pride.

We kept in contact and chatted regularly over the phone and he would share with me his travels and achievements. I would say that I was so proud of him and he would modestly remind me that I was his teacher. Any teacher would have been proud to have a student who showed a commitment and passion for whatever he did.

Ravi married Vinosha who was perfect for him and they began their lives together. Even then we chatted and he shared with me his happiness and joy … and, sometimes, his own frustrations with life but he was never ever angry or bitter. He accepted what life gave him or didn’t give him with dignity and appreciation. He trusted that there was always a greater plan than his own.

Recently, we chatted again. This time he told me about the wonderful work that the Department of Arts and Culture was doing in KZN. He spoke so passionately about the service delivery programmes that they were rolling out and how these would assist and develop the arts and culture of the province. I told him I was so proud of him and he modestly reminded me that I was his teacher. I kept saying that these were his achievements but he said that he would have achieved nothing without his teachers.

The fact is that I didn’t teach him anything. He taught me. In many ways, Ravi was a great teacher because he taught teachers how to conduct themselves as teachers and he taught students how to conduct themselves as students. He taught us that every person was important and divine and that service to our fellow beings is a noble profession in itself.
 In so many ways he embodied the best of what his culture and religion professed. He would not claim it and he probably will disagree but he was a proper master of Bhakti Yoga.

The Bhagavata Puranateaches nine primary forms of bhakti, as explained by Prahlada:[5]
(1) śravaa ("listening" to the scriptural stories of Kṛṣṇa and his companions), (2) kīrtana ("praising," usually refers to ecstatic group singing), (3) smaraa ("remembering" or fixing the mind on Viṣṇu), (4) pāda-sevana (rendering service), (5) arcane (worshiping an image), (6) vandana (paying homage), (7) dāsya (servitude), (8) sākhya (friendship), and (9) ātma-nivedana (complete surrender of the self). (from Bhagavata Purana, 7.5.23-24)

I cannot think of anyone else who has embodied these values and qualities with such humility and grace than Ravi Govender. We might be sad today and even tomorrow but we will always remember him as he always remembered us. There has never been a single celebration or festival or prayer that he didn’t send greetings and blessings. I would like to share with you and remind you of one of the last messages that he sent to his friends and family.

In his New Year message for 2014 he said “The New Year is your instalment of time to make your mark and to generate an investment to carry the next generation. May the path ahead be full of compounded experiences that accelerates hope, endows you with worldly impulses, steep pyramids of ingenuity, temples of spirituality, eyes to capture the pristine knowledge of productive and healthy living, the wings of freedom to fly the universe to make valued decisions, be the avid and responsible chancellor of treasured memories in the vault of life. So power in 2014 and fire in the chemistry for success, an improved quality of life and prosperity. Happy New Year to u and your family. Regards Ravi and Family.   

This message speaks of Ravi’s generosity of spirit and his love for his friends and family and a wish and a challenge for us to carry on with his proud legacy. The world is a much better place because of him and it will continue to be a better place because of what he has taught us.

All we may have left are the ‘treasured memories in the vault of life’ but he now has the wings to fly freely through the universe….God Bless you Ravi… - Kiren Thathiah