Arts fraternity mourns theatre guru Susan Haines Susan Haines

Arts Reporter

Condolence messages continue to pour following the death of theatre guru Susan Haines last Friday after a long illness.

Haines is believed to have been staying with a friend in Harare. 

The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) has described Haines as a humble person who was always open to ideas. 

“The NACZ has learned with sadness the news of the death of NAMA legend Susan Haines in Harare last Friday.” 

“Susan Haines was instrumental in the creation of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe Act which saw the establishment of the NACZ in 1985 from the ashes of the National Arts Foundation,” said NACZ director Nicholas Moyo. 

“The Arts Council Act mandated the new body to foster, develop and improve the knowledge, understanding, and practice of the arts in Zimbabwe.” 

He said Haines assisted many artists to work in theatre establishing a strong and diverse voice that represents the Zimbabwean Society. “Her influence and support can be found somewhere at the base and foundation of many of Zimbabwe’s successful, actors, writers, and directors,” he said.

Dance teacher, Debbie Fleming said Haines was a vibrant person to work with.

“I just opened Facebook this morning (Sunday) to see some bad news, not just once, but twice. Susan MacMillan and Susan Haines both have died,” she posted. 

“Both amazing ladies. I am in shock about Sue Macmillan — just the other day I was chatting to her at reps. And she always loves to hear my stories about my horses. Very sad to hear this news. 

“And Susan Haines — my word — what memories I will always have of this amazing lady! Her vibrancy in directing shows I performed in at Reps Theatre over so many years. RIP to the two lovely ladies.” 

Playwright Raisedon Baya said, “This woman made our first theatre tour outside the country possible. We had been invited to a festival. We had no money to travel.” 

“We looked around and failed and then we just wrote her a letter informing her about our invite. She was the chairperson of the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) which was basically a white theatre organisation and we were not even members of NTO. A week before the festival we received a letter from her to come and get the travel grant,” he wrote on his social media page. 

“When we met her she turned out to be a wonderful human being who wanted Zimbabwean theatre — in all its colours, shades and all, to prosper. Sadly, she has decided to be with angels. We always say legends don’t die, they change form.” 

However, Haines grew up in Harare where in her youth she studied dance and acting. 

She went on to study acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London and then worked in the industry in the United Kingdom. She pursued an interest and skill working in film and television as a make-up artist and on continuity. 

She continued to work in these roles in the Zimbabwean film industry. 

More importantly, she dedicated a larger portion of her life, from the mid-1970s to the present day, to supporting and coaching young acting talent in Zimbabwe. 

Her profile grew to include the support and coaching of scriptwriters and directors. 

In her role as Chairperson of the National Theatre Organisation of Zimbabwe, she was able to extend this work to embrace and include all Zimbabweans. She facilitated the contribution of a wide range of artists and experts to develop and decolonize Zimbabwean Theatre making it more inclusive. In 2021 she was one of the 40 legends who were awarded the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) Legends @40 Awards for her lifelong commitment to the arts and her role in nurturing many theatre producers, directors, and administrators who have become the backbone of the sector in Zimbabwe today.

Born on 13 December 1942 in England, Susan passed on August 12 2023. 

She is survived by her son Michael who lives in England. Funeral arrangements are yet to be advised.

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