Remembering Mama Africa!

Next Thursday the Alliance Française will host a tribute to the legendary South African musician, Miriam Makeba. Popularly referred to as ‘Mama Africa’, Makeba spent a good deal of her musical career living in exile in England and North America, and later in Guinea, West Africa.

Makeba left South Africa in 1959 as a result of run-ins with the apartheid government after she achieved a level of fame for her role in the 1959 musical King Kong, the first all-black South African musical. But she hadn’t intended to remain abroad indefinitely – it was only when she tried to return to South Africa in 1960 in order to attend her mother’s funeral that she discovered that her passport had been revoked. Miriam Makeba was no longer welcome in the country of her birth. Speaking of life in exile Makeba said:

Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them, but not of them. That’s when it hurts.

Google Doodle celebrating what would have been Miriam Makeba's 81st birthday, 4th March 2013
Google Doodle celebrating what would have been Miriam Makeba’s 81st birthday, 4th March 2013

Makeba, who was the first African woman to be awarded a Grammy in 1965, eventually returned to South Africa in 1990 at the request of former president, Nelson Mandela. She continued to perform right up until her death in 2008, at the age 76, having suffered a heart attack shortly after a performance in Southern Italy.

I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa and the people without even realising” – Makeba: The Miriam Makeba Story (2004)

Tribute to Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba will be performed by vocalist Thulile Zama on Thursday the 26th April 2018. Tickets cost R80 and are for sale directly from the centre:

Leave a Comment