‘Gi­ant in the world of art and film’ dies aged 55

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

AC­CLAIMED Bo-Kaap film-maker, play­wright and au­thor Zul­fah Otto-Sal­lies, who died yes­ter­day aged 55, will be re­mem­bered as a chron­i­cler of Cape Mus­lim life.

Otto-Sal­lies, who died from com­pli­ca­tions from a stroke, was buried yes­ter­day at 3pm.

Her sis­ter Naahid Naki­dien de­scribed her as an “in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure” who “loved see­ing peo­ple ex­cel”. “It was her spirit,” she said. Her sis­ter, said Naki­dien, kept an “open door pol­icy”.

“Any­one could come to her and lay out their lives,” she said.

Otto-Sal­lies gained fame as the writer and pro­ducer of the fa­mous mu­si­cal drama Diekie van­nie Bo-Kaap, which pre­miered in 1992 in Cape Town to rave re­views.

It was per­formed at the 1993 Gra­ham­stown Arts Fes­ti­val.

In 1997 she turned the play into a short book, which has gone through nu­mer­ous print runs.

Af­ter her suc­cess with Diekie van­nie Bo- Kaap, Sal­lies went on to work on a num­ber of suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tions in­clud­ing the hit dance mu­si­cal Rosa, Koe­si­ester Men­tal­ity and Echoes from the Ghet­tos.

In the early 1990s she be­came in­volved in tele­vi­sion.

In 1995 she be­came a di­rec­tor of the Com­mu­nity Video and Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, and later served on the Cape Film and Video Foun­da­tion Board.

She was a curator at the Cape Town World Cinema Fes­ti­val.

Some of her notable film works in­clude the 2001 short film Raya and the 2004 doc­u­men­tary Through the Eyes of my Daugh­ter, which pre­miered at the 2004 Ber­lin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

In 2006 Otto-Sal­lies made her fea­ture film de­but with Don’t Touch.

In the past few years she had been busy with a film ver­sion of Diekie van­nie Bo-Kaap, her sis­ter said.

Her chil­dren were set to con­tinue with the project.

Naki­dien said Otto-Sal­lies, who worked as a teacher in the 1980s, had re­cently re­turned to teach­ing lan­guages at Prest­wich Street Pri­mary School.

“She had a way to in­spire her kids to love Afrikaans,” she said.

“She taught there out of pure pas­sion”.

The Doc­u­men­tary Film-mak­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa called her a “gi­ant in the world of arts and cinema”.

“We salute you for your im­mense con­tri­bu­tion to the field and for in­spir­ing so many young film-mak­ers, es­pe­cially black film-mak­ers to who you re­main a bea­con of hope,” it said in post on Facebook.

“Our thoughts are with her fam­ily, friends and many col­leagues.”

In her work Otto-Sal­lies, who was born in Port Elizabeth and moved to Cape Town when young, drew on South African Mus­lim cul­ture, and par­tic­u­larly the Bo-Kaap, for in­spi­ra­tion.

In Oc­to­ber 2011, in an in­ter­view with the African Women in Cinema Blog, she talked of her love for the neigh­bour­hood.

“It is my pas­sion for Bo-Kaap, a place where I still re­side, that makes wak­ing up in the morn­ing pure bliss,” she said

“Cinema from the de­vel­op­ing world is not bound to western cin­e­matic lan­guage,” she said in an in­ter­view in 2003. “It is a dy­namic film con­ven­tion which re­sults in a to­tally new cin­e­matic lan­guage.”

She is sur­vived by her hus­band and three chil­dren.

jan.cronje@inl.co.za

Zul­fah Otto Sal­lies

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