Mosaval’s dance defied all odds

Mosaval's dance defied all odds

Mosaval's dance defied all odds

Hundreds of mourners flocked to Surrey Estate on Wednesday to pay their last respects to District Six-born dance icon Dr Johaar Mosaval, who took his final bow from the mortal stage at 95 years.

Tributes poured in for Mosaval, described as a national treasure who danced his way into the hearts of people around the world.

He passed away in his sleep before 5am on Wednesday, family spokesperson Suleiman Mosaval confirmed.

Mosaval was buried according to Muslim rites at the Constantia Muslim burial site.

Suleiman, nephew of Mosaval, said the family was deeply saddened by his passing after he died of deteriorating frailty.

“What a person to have lost. He was an inspiration to many and so many drew inspiration from my uncle. It was a stressful morning for the family after he was hospitalised overnight but he wasn’t sick, it was just old age and he was very frail and due to his age, his health deteriorated over time.

“Milestones beyond milestones were achieved. He reached the epitome of his career and he left a legacy behind.

“He was extremely famous for what he did and achieved from ballet dancing. He was a pure example of what can be done in this world and he was a good person, a wonderful human being and very embracing. He always gave some sort of assistance in the arts,” said Suleiman.

Mosaval faced great opposition under apartheid when he started dancing in the 1940s. He was not given the opportunity to perform to his potential in South Africa due to the restrictions on access to theatres and stages. In 1950, two visiting dancers spotted his talent and assisted him to get a scholarship to attend Sadler’s Wells Ballet School in London.

He would go on to join the Royal Ballet School and within another year he graduated into the Royal Ballet Company. In 1956 Mosaval was promoted to soloist and performed his first solo for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Covent Garden.

He also became the first black South African to be a senior principal dancer at the Royal Ballet – the highest rank in the profession at one of the world’s most prestigious classical ballet companies.

Mosaval was also awarded The Order of Ikhamanga: Gold for his exceptional achievement in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism or sport.

Artscape Chief executive, Marlene Le Roux, said: “The Artscape is saddened by the news that one of its own has passed away. Mosaval was our living legend. In March of 2023, the Artscape hosted ‘The Johaar Mosaval Story’. His life story was encapsulated in ‘dreaming dance in District 6’. What made this production even more meaningful was that he narrated his own story on stage.

“A son of District 6 who defied all odds during the Apartheid era to become the world’s top ballerina who danced for the British Royal Family. His message of hope, self belief, perseverance, hard work, defying the odds, believing in his abilities and sharing his talent, is the legacy he has left behind for future generations. He was a kind, beautiful soul. Rest softly Johaar Mosaval.”

Cape Town Ballet Company’s chief executive, Suzette Raymond said Mosaval’s undeniable talent shone through from a young age.

“He excelled as an athlete, swimmer, and gymnast and frequently appeared in popular pantomimes at the Cape Town City Hall. Despite being ridiculed for his dream of becoming a famous ballet dancer, Johaar’s passion remained unwavering,” said Raymond.

Joburg Ballet also hailed the “kind and gentle man”.

“Although he appeared as a guest artist with Capab Ballet at the end of his dancing career, apartheid laws kept him from dancing in South Africa at the height of his career and when The Royal Ballet visited the country in 1960, Johaar could not tour to South Africa with the company,” a statement read.

Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais, said: “Mosaval was a story of triumph in a dark time in our country. He was able to access opportunities for him to follow his passion for dance and he made a huge impact overseas. It is a tragedy and a devastating sign of the cruelty of apartheid that he was not recognised and celebrated in his own country during that time. We honour him as a legend of our country, who paved the way for other dancers.

“Our condolences go out to Johaar’s family, friends and all those who knew him. He was a true legend of our country and his memory will long live on.”

Cape Times