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Saturday, February 29, 2020


(Right: Mohamed Alli)

Actor and radio presenter Warrick Frank pays tribute to the late Mohamed Alli.

It's is with a heavy heart that I post about the loss of yet another pioneer in the South African Indian theatre community. One half of the ever-popular EKMA Productions, Mohamed Alli.

Rest in peace Alli, I am honoured to have had the privilege of being mentored by you and Essop Khan.

I joined EKMA at the start of my career and I am grateful for all that you, Essop and Savy have instilled in me. You all were more than just friends and mentors, you became family over the years.

I remember speaking to you about finding yours, Essops and Savys legacy in a matric textbook while I was teaching Grade 12 last year. I will carry you with me the rest of my journey through the wonderful memories we shared.

Rest well my dear friend, till we meet again.

Tribute to Mr Mohamed Alli
On Tuesday February 18, 2020, at 12h54, as I prepared to start my final teaching lesson at school for the day, I received the devastating news from Mohamed Alli’s nephew, Ridwaan Dawood, of Alli’s passing. I was overwhelmed with emotion as Savy Ramsamy and I were on the phone the previous night making arrangements for our next visit to him the coming Thursday. As the final bell rang at school, I quickly rushed to my car to call Savy to inform her of the sad news. She was in shock and disbelief at first but I managed to give her all the details.

Alli (77) was born and grew up in Clairwood, South of Durban and later owned a home in Isipingo Rails, then later moved to Isipingo Beach, which was his current residence.

Alli first started theatre at ML Sultan Technikon while studying towards his diploma in commerce and was cast along with Savy Ramsamy for Muthal Naidoo’s play which was being staged on campus in the late 1960s. He later completed his diploma and ventured out into the arts and met Essop Khan at a social club called 225. The two became friends after they realised that they were the only two Muslims at the club and shared a love for the arts. Their brotherhood grew from there. Alli, Essop and Savy later joined the Shah Theatre Company under the mentorship of Ronnie Govender and worked closely with theatre stalwart, Kessie Govender and Muthal Naidoo. Alli and Savy starred in Kessie Govender’s hit protest play, Stable Expense.

(Essop Khan, Savy Ramsamy & Mohamed Alli)

In 1985, Alli formed one half of the popular comedic duo that was EKMA productions, along with fellow pioneer in arts, Essop Khan. They had much success with their hit plays over their company’ 30 year run in the arts and went on to produce, write, direct and star in over 60 productions. Veteran actress Savy Ramsamy was also an original member of EKMA and was specifically recruited by Khan and Alli. EKMA productions first play Jamal Syndrome, was staged in 1986 at the Aquarius Theatre in Reservoir Hills and ran for two years. Khan and Alli were no strangers to hit plays of that era as they both were the original cast members of the longest-running play in the 1970s, Lahnee’s Pleasure, by Ronnie Govender.

EKMA was synonymous for community theatre as they brought and introduced theatre to the masses, performing an average of 80-100 shows a year across the country. They assisted countless communities, charity organisations, schools, temples, churches, sporting and social bodies with fund-raising initiatives through their shows. They were the only travelling theatre company for many years and gave many young artists a break in the industry. They always nurtured young talent and shared their wealth of knowledge.

I met Mohamed Alli and Essop Khan in 2010 and began work with them in January of 2011. I have so many wonderful memories with them. They became my mentors and guided me through the industry as I had just finished my tertiary education. We travelled all over the country together and spent so much time with one another that we were not just colleagues and friends, we were family. I toured with the company for five years until it was disbanded in 2015, but I still maintained a close relationship with Alli and Essop.

A full-circle moment for myself and Alli came in 2013 with the revival of Kessie Govender’s play Stable Expense, where I got to play the role of “Rama” originally played by Alli in the 80s.

We laughed, we cried, we stressed and worried with each other. No-one understood the life of a travelling artist. We only had each other and we leaned on each other for support through our difficult times. At first, I couldn’t fathom how these three did it for many years before me, but I quickly learnt. EKMA gave me a break at the start of my career when no-one else would. They taught me discipline and hard work within the arts and gave me the tools to create a career.

The loss of Essop Khan (2018) and now the loss of Mohamed Alli weighs heavy on my heart but I have always promised them that I would keep their legacy alive and I would carry them with me through the rest of my journey.

Alli passed away from a severe stroke at his residence on Tuesday February 18, 2020. He is survived by his wife Rehana and four daughters Zaheda, Fathima, Ayesha and Sumaya. – Warrick Frank