“THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is to be ready to give up what you are for what you might become”, the timeless words of American civil rights activist WEB du Bois were close to the heart and value system of Shoki Mokgapa. An actress, theatre activist and lover of dance and poetry, Mokgapa tragically took her own life on September 25 2018 after a lengthy battle with clinical depression. She was 34.
Armed with her bright beautiful eyes, her unique sparkly energy and feisty sense of humour, not to forget her unmistakable quirkiness that set popular culture alive, Mokgapa performed in several TV series, including Intersexions, The Lab, The Docket and most recently, Ashes to Ashes, after her TV debut in 2008. She was no stranger to film culture either, and enjoyed roles in five South African films, including Justin Chadwick’s 2013 Long Walk to Freedom. She was a member of the cast of the recent South African film Sew the Winter to My Skin, directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka. This film is South African official film’s submission for the 2019 Oscar nomination.
Also reprising roles in BBC productions such as Silent Witness and Amazon Prime Video’s The Looming Tower, in 2017 Mokgapa was awarded best actress in a feature film from SAFTA in 2017, when she was recognised as best actress in the kyknetSilwerskerm Festival for her role in the devastating Afrikaans-language film Sink in which she played the Mozambican domestic worker and mother to a child killed by her employers, by accident.
Educated in live performance at AFDA in Johannesburg, after being schooled at the British International College and Mount Waldorf School, Shoki has been widely remembered by friends for her ability to love with a full heart and mourn the losses she’d weathered deeply. She was born in Johannesburg on August 17 1984. Proficient in English and seSotho, she had great dreams for her own international career, and for the future of the industry. Indeed, she was instrumental in co-founding Maboneng’s POPArt theatre in 2011 at a time when the idea of a new little theatre space in downtown Johannesburg felt impossible, let alone brave.
A memorial was hosted early in October at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, in honour of Shoki, who leaves her parents, her older brother Tshepiso and step-sister Ntsako Mokadikwa and nephew Kopano, friends, colleagues and thousands of devastated fans.