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Mogotsi, Pearl Cynthia Connor- [née Pearl Cynthia Nunez; other married name Pearl Cynthia Connor] (1924–2005), actress and theatrical agent, was born Pearl Cynthia Nunez in Diego Martin, Trinidad, on 13 May 1924, the ninth of twelve children of Albert Antonio Nunez, a headmaster, and his wife, Georgina Agnes, née Fitt, a teacher. Her father was of Portuguese and African descent; her mother ‘was a white woman with red hair but she had some Carib in her’ (The Guardian). She had ‘a lovely, magical, folklore-based childhood’, but ‘I was terribly rebellious’, she later recalled (The Independent). In Trinidad her greatest influence was Beryl McBurnie, a woman dedicated to promoting the culture and arts of the island and the founder of the Little Carib Theatre, where Pearl Nunez gained her first acting experience.

Soon after the Second World War Pearl Nunez travelled to London, where she enrolled at King's College to study law. In London, on 26 June 1948, she married the popular Trinidadian folk-singer, actor, and broadcaster , whom she had met in Trinidad. He was looked upon as a father figure in Britain's post-war black community. After her marriage Pearl Connor gave up her law studies in order to assist in the management of her husband's career, and also to bring up their two children, Geraldine and Peter. From 1956 until 1976 she ran the Edric Connor Agency, which later became known as the Afro-Asian Caribbean Agency: ‘the need of the people [on our books] always remained our first priority’, she later said:
We struggled along for years because the pay for artistes was not a lot. We didn't have named artistes on our books, we didn't have people with great reputations, we were building reputations. And that was our pioneering work. We were breaking stones and it was very tough. (Pines, 36)
The Jamaican actor Lloyd Reckord, who arrived in Britain in the early 1950s, described her as a guardian angel to all young black actors in Britain:
Her house was always a home for people like us. And she just worked continually, pushing black actors, quarrelling with the powers-that-be, arguing ‘Why can't black actors get this sort of part?’, and generally working for us. (ibid., 53)
Meanwhile Pearl Connor studied at the Rose Bruford Training College of Speech and Drama and worked as a broadcaster for BBC radio, making appearances on their Caribbean Service. She also acted in BBC radio plays, including The Barren One (1958), My People and Your People (1959), and Jan Carew's The Riverman (1968). There were occasional appearances on the stage, including in Barry Reckord's You in Your Small Corner at the Royal Court in 1960, and in such films as Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! (1973). In 1961 she helped launch the Negro Theatre Workshop at the Lyric Theatre in London with a production of A Wreath for Udomo, written by the black South African Peter Abrahams. The company also presented Wole Soyinka's The Road (1965), staged at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, for the Commonwealth Arts Festival, and The Dark Disciples (1966), a jazz version of the St Luke passion, which was chosen to represent Britain at the first World Festival of Black and African Arts in Senegal. The Dark Disciples was also produced for BBC television in 1966.

Edric Connor died in 1968, and on 26 March 1971 Pearl married, in London, Joseph Kolie (Joe) Mogotsi (1924–2011), the South African lead singer of the Manhattan Brothers. Together they planned and organized tours throughout the world for black South African singers, dancers, musicians, and actors. In 1977 she represented Trinidad and Tobago at the second World Festival of Black and African Arts in Lagos, Nigeria. In 1995 she opened the twelfth International Book Fair of Radical, Black and Third World Books in London, and took part in A Brighter Sun: a Celebration of the Life and Work of Sam Selvon at the Royal Festival Hall. In 2003 she introduced a screening of Edric Connor's 1960 film Carnival Fantastique—which had been thought lost—at the National Film Theatre. Occasionally she was called upon to contribute to television and radio documentaries, including BBC2's Black and White in Colour (1992), BBC Radio 2's Salutations (a profile of Edric Connor; 1993), Alex Pascall's Caribbean Folk Music (1995), and two productions in the BBC's 1998 Windrush season, Their Long Voyage Home (Radio 2) and Black Firsts: Edric Connor (BBC2). She was also seen in Channel 4's Songs From the Golden City (1997), the story of Joe Mogotsi and the Manhattan Brothers.

In 1972 the government of Trinidad and Tobago awarded Pearl Connor-Mogotsi the Humming Bird silver medal for ‘outstanding services to the immigrant community in the United Kingdom’, and in 1992, in Britain, she received the national black women's achievement award. She died in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 11 February 2005, and was survived by her husband Joe and the two children of her first marriage. Her funeral service was held in London at St Martin's Church, Kensal Green, on 26 February. On 13 October 2007 family, friends, and colleagues paid tribute to her with a celebration of her life and career at the church hall, Church of the Ascension, Wembley Park.

Stephen Bourne

Sources  

J. Pines, ed., Black and white in colour: black people in British television since 1936 (1992) · J. Robeson, ‘Reflections’, Weekly Journal (c.1992) [undated clipping, priv. coll.] · P. Connor-Mogotsi, ‘Our olympian struggle’, 23 March 1995, www.black-history-month.co.uk/articles/pearl.html, accessed on 28 May 2008 · S. Bourne, Black in the British frame: the black experience in British film and television, 2nd edn (2001) · The Independent (14 Feb 2005) · The Guardian (2 March 2005) · The Times (22 March 2005) · J. La Rose, ‘Eulogy for Pearl Connor-Mogotsi’, St Martin's Church, Kensal Green, 26 Feb 2005, www.onepaper.com/caribiadigest, accessed on 28 May 2008 · S. Whyte, ‘Connor-Mogotsi, Pearl’, www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/499408, accessed on 28 May 2008 · personal knowledge (2009) · private information (2009) · m. certs.

Likenesses  

obituary photographs