Monday, 5 September 2011

Biography - Pearl Connor-Mogotsi


by Marjorie H Morgan © 2013


Pearl Connor-Mogotsi.  Actor; Agent; Producer; Author; Cultural Activist.  Born: Trinidad, 1924. Died: Johannesburg, 2005.


Born Pearl Cynthia Nunez in Diego Martin, Trinidad, Pearl Connor-Mogotsi originally travelled from Trinidad to England to study law at King’s College but she soon changed career directions and became the first black theatrical agent in the UK.  In 1948 she married the popular Trinidadian folk-singer and actor Edric Connor. Her studies were put aside so that she could better manage her husband’s career.

From her time in the Caribbean Connor-Mogotsi had became involved in the retrieval of the indigenous Caribbean culture and when she arrived in London she became a pioneer in the promotion of African Caribbean arts. From the 1950s she was central in the endeavour to include African, Caribbean and Asian artists in determining a new perception of society and art worldwide, but especially in Britain
She combined her legal knowledge with the experience of her actor husband to begin an agency for black artists; The Edric Connor Agency began in 1956 and in the 1970s it was renamed the Afro-Asian-Caribbean Agency; the agency ran for twenty years.
In 1961 she was integral in the establishment of the Negro Theatre Workshop, which in 1965 produced The Road by Wole Soyinka's, and The Dark Disciples, an interpretation of the Easter story using a company of twenty-five black actors, for BBC television in 1966.  The Workshop - one of Britain’s first black theatre companies - also produced a jazz version of the St Luke Passion, The Jazz Disciples, which was televised and represented Britain at the 1st World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966.

In 1972 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago awarded Connor the Hummingbird Silver Medal in recognition of her significant services to the migrant community in the United Kingdom. In 1973 she also received the National Black Women's Achievement Award for Entertainment and Arts in Britain.

Connor-Mogotsi trained at the Rose Burford School of Speech and Drama and also worked as a broadcaster for BBC radio; she made routine appearances on the BBC’s Caribbean Service. Connor-Mogotsi occasionally appeared on stage and film (O Lucky Man! (1973)) and often acted in radio plays like My People and Your People (1959) – a “West Indian ballad opera”; and The Riverman (1968);


Connor’s agency was involved in co-producing or distributed some of the groundbreaking films in black British and Caribbean film history, especially Carnival Fantastique (1959), The Harder They Come (1972). Horace OvĂ©'s films King Carnival (1972) and Pressure (1975), and Smile Orange (1976).


In 1971 Pearl Connor married Joseph Mogotsi, leader of the South African prominent black singing group The Manhattan Brothers. As a team Pearl and Joseph organised tours throughout the world for actors, musicians, singers, and dancers. Connor-Mogotsi continued her cultural activism on a worldwide stage; in 1995 she opened the final (12th) International Book Fair of Radical, Black and Third World Books in London. This organisation was totally self-financing and it brought together people from across the world to open up a discussion environment and to encourage people to participate in numerous cultural productions, plays, films, musical events and to browse at publishers’ stalls.
Her wide range of knowledge was made evident on a large scale when gave the first talk in the Life Experiences With Britain series at the George Padmore Institute in 1997.

For nearly five decades Connor-Motgotsi was a pioneer in the identification and endorsement of African Caribbean arts.  As well as running her black music publishing and her literary agency She continued to act as a consultant in all areas of the arts and, in February 2005, while on another cultural promotional excursion - Connor-Mogotsi had gone with her husband Joseph, for the premier of the film Sophiatown in Johannesburg, she died.

1 comment:

  1. My Great Aunty rest her soul, such a wonderful woman, always happy and chirpy. She was truly fantastic. Every time I saw her while in my early years, she was always busy with work at home, interviewing people at there Flat, that place was magic, always busy with actors, musicians and visitors who had traveled thousands of miles to see her. Both Great Uncle Joe and herself were an inspiring couple who helped many people get their careers off the ground.
    Rest in peace Great Aunty Pearl and Great Uncle Joe Mogotsi.

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