Miriam Makeba always insisted she was not a political figure, but she was Mama Africa, the BBC World Service recalled in a tribute to her in the arts and culture programme, Strand. That’s Miriam Makeba in her prime singing about the oppression of apartheid and below there’s another clip showing her much later singing about the beauty of Africa with Paul Simon.
Listen to the BBC tribute if you can. Hear what the South African novelist, Gillian Slovo, daughter of the activist Joe Slovo, has to say about her. Hear the singer of the South African group, Freshly Ground, sing.
And read Desmond Tutu’s tribute to Mama Africa on Times Online. “If you met Miriam Makeba, you'd hate apartheid,” says the headline. Desmond Tutu writes:
I remember when she was forced into exile in the 1960s after appearing in a documentary about apartheid. In one sense, those of us still in South Africa were sad that another talented person had left…
Yet it was also good that people such as Miriam, Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki were going forth and showing the world that we did not go around eating people, that we walked upright and that we wore clothes.
Apartheid wanted to give the world that image of us. In spite of all the obstacles put in our way, Miriam Makeba emerged from South Africa with this beautiful voice. In that way, she became one of the greatest arguments against apartheid.