“The Seagull’s Name was Nelson.” This wildly popular song of the 1960s was the signature tune of the South African folk duo Des and Dawn Lindberg, and when it struck my young, then-Durban-boy’s ears, it was my first exposure to the talents of the husband-and-wife team. Although the song was huge, I would discover, in the decades to pass, that there was so much more to this energetic showbiz pairing.
It was therefore with a heavy heart that I would discover that Dawn Lindberg passed away in Plettenberg Bay, in the midnight hours of Monday, December 7th, after a very short illness, apparently associated with Covid-19.
Although both Des and Dawn had their solo projects, they are best remembered as a showbiz duo – and one of the most iconic the country has seen, alongside the pairing of Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke. Whilst the latter were associated with Broadway-type glamour, Des and Dawn preferred to linger more on the edge, producing shows that would challenge the “establishment”; both theatrically and sociopolitically.
Social awareness was always a large component of their work, and their racially integrated production of ‘Godspell’, in the thick of Apartheid (early 1970s), stood as a beacon of cultural resistance, in a time when racial mixing wasn’t allowed either on stage or in the audience.
The state banned the production (ostensibly on the basis of “blasphemy”), but the determined duo took their fight to the Supreme Court, which ultimately allowed the show to continue, on to what would prove to be a very successful run.
Their following production, of ‘The Black Mikado’, was the first mainstream West End show ever to premiere in Soweto; such was Des and Dawn’s pioneering spirit.
The Lindbergs also formed a company called CAT (Cabaret and Theatre), that caters to the eventing and corporate markets. In more recent years, Dawn was the founder and CEO of the Naledi Awards, which recognise excellence in local theatre.
Outspoken, motivated and fearless, she was the kind of person you’d want on your side. Her sudden passing has left South Africa’s entertainment world in a state of shock and disbelief.
Our fondest condolences go to Des and their children and grandchildren.
Article updated to correct place of death.