“I’M ABOUT LIVING, loving and sharing,” South African actor Bronwyn van Graan described herself on her facebook page. A performer who was relentless in plumbing the depths to find work in the South African theatre industry, and to do so with characteristic energy and always a smile on her face, van Graan passed away tragically and unexpectedly on March 31. She was 39 years old.
Van Graan worked in everything from wardrobe to industrial theatre, but shone her brightest on stage and from behind the radio microphone. Born in Cape Town on November 25 1978, she matriculated in 1995 at Athlone High School, and then trained in drama at the University of Cape Town, focusing on English, History and Performance. Equally at home in English and Afrikaans, she emerged on the South African stage in 2002. She could rollerskate and dance the Salsa, shimmy to jazz rhythms and above all make people smile – because she gave of herself with a full heart and with great generosity.
In 2007, van Graan won the Naledi Award for best supporting actress for her work in Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. Over the years, she was acknowledged with nominations by the South African Indian Film and Television Awards (SAIFTA) and KYKNET Fiesta. Appearing in a wide range of work from serious Afrikaans theatre to Jade Bowers’ searing direction of Scorched, Van Graan is probably best known and most widely celebrated for her radio work.
Associated with the SAfm soapie, Vuka Radio, directed by Bruce Millar, since 2012 – the soapie which last week was canned by SAfm management – van Graan performed in plays both serious and funny. A performer who worked under a vast range of directors, from film director Heinrich Reisenhofer in 2001 to Mari Snyman, for Radio Sonder Grense in 2018, van Graan has been unanimously celebrated and fondly known as “Peach” and the original “Khoisan Barbie”. But just take a look at her photographs if you want to gain access to this beautiful young woman’s soul: there’s feistiness there as well as a great deal of empathy.
She touched so many lives in so many crucial ways, as the storm of tears on social media has attested to. She was hard-working and willing to take direction, tough and bold, gentle and funny. By all accounts, she was a delight to call ‘friend’ and injected a real sense of vibrancy into everything she touched. She had a beautiful heart, said one friend. “Do not follow where the path may lead,” she added to her facebook details. “Go instead where there is no path”.
She leaves a devastated industry, her parents, Felicia and Terry, an older brother, Clem and husband Raiko, as well as many many close cousins and a huge and loving extended family.
- The funeral service for Bronwyn Van Graan (Peach) is on Saturday, April 7 at the Church of the Transfiguration in Durban Road, Bellville. Viewing will be from 9-9:30am and the service commences at 9.30am. The family has requested that you light a candle in memory of precious Peach if you are unable to attend the service.
- A memorial service will be held for Bronwyn (Peach) van Graan, at the University of Johannesburg’s Con Cowan Theatre, (31 Bunting Rd, Cottesloe, Johannesburg) this Saturday 7 April 2018, starting 10:30 for 11:00am. This gathering will allow an opportunity for anyone who wishes, to share a few words to do so.