I am researching the history of the silent film in South Africa and am very keen to obtain information about an actor known only as Goba. Between 1916 and 1917 he acted in four films for African Film Productions, but until recently nothing else was known about him. However, one or two sources suggested that he came from a mission station in what was then Natal.
In recent weeks I have come across two more facts. Speaking to W.G. Faulkner of the London Evening News in May 1919, American actress Edna Flugrath, who had acted with him in De Voortrekkers, told Faulkner that Goba had died (in other words, since the films were released). Also, when interviewed in The Sun of New York, American director Lorimer Johnston, who gave Goba his first role in A Zulu’s Devotion, tells the reporter that he had met a Chief Goba, who he said was an uncle of the young King Solomon. Lorimer said that he had a letter from him in which Goba thanked him for the fame he had given him outside Zululand by showing his likeness in all parts of the world. Johnston also said that at the time Goba was so old that he can’t reckon it, though he was still vigorous. That would fit the image we have of the actor in surviving stills.
I realise that the name Goba is not uncommon, but do you think that it is possible that the actor and Chief Goba are one and the same? Another possibility is that Johnston named the actor in tribute to the chief.
It’s something of a long shot, but it has always frustrated me that we know so little about him. I’m hoping that someone associated with your website can shed some light on this. Just to have the dates of Chief Goba’s birth and death would help.
With many thanks
Editor, South African Film (ESAT)