Nkonyeni’s eldest granddaughter, Mpho, 26, said: “Hlehle really loved people, to such an extent that she would cook a full meal every day for people who would come visit.
“We were much alike. She loved clothes and so did I and we always fought about it because I always wanted to take something from her wardrobe and she would say ‘no ways, I paid a lot for that’.”
South African acting legend John Kani, who is in Hollywood for the world premiere of The Lion King, said it was with great sadness that he had learnt of the loss of his “friend and comrade in the arts”.
“Her performance as Antigone still stands as the greatest of all time,” he said.
“With Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona, Mulligan Mbikwana, Norman Ntshinga and Vuyelwa Ntshona, we founded the legendary Serpent Players Drama Group of Port Elizabeth in 1965.
“A great lady, a teacher and a dear friend of mine. What a grand lady,” he said.
For Port Elizabeth actor Anele Penny, 38, Nkonyeni became a surrogate mother when he moved from Peddie to Port Elizabeth.
Penny, whom Nkonyeni directed in the play, Buzani ku Bawo, at the Opera House in April, said: “With us she was not a superstar, she was a mother.”
Penny painted a picture of a woman who would not let a visitor leave her home without them first having a meal, and someone who was always willing to help.
“Working with her was something I can’t really describe,” he said.
“I had watched her on TV –