The crowd seated inside the State Theatre on Friday while waiting for artists to perform in tribute of Mam Winnie who passed away at age 81. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

PRETORIA - Hundreds of women clad in black and colourful doeks were among some men who patiently queued outside the State Theatre in Pretoria on Friday, to watch artists pay tribute to fallen struggle heroine Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The women's attire stems from the ruling party -- the African National Congress' -- call on women to wear black with a doek, beret or head scarf in honour of the late struggle icon. 

Affectionately known as the 'Mother of the Nation', Madikizela-Mandela passed away at Milpark Hospital on April 21, at the age of 81 after a long illness.

After the crowd had filled the venue, poets and musicians from different genres took turns showering the masses with entertainment.

The tribute included legendary performers such as opera singer Sibongile Khumalo, gospel singer Rebecca Malope, Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi,  the legendary Soweto String Quartert and Zahara.

Those who couldn't make it inside the theatre watched the performances outside in a screen. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

State Theatre CEO Sibongiseni Mkhize said they decided to hold this tribute because Madikizela-Mandela was an avid supporter of the arts and always had time to engage with young artists.

"Her last visit to the theatre was in August 2017 when she came to watch Marikana-The Musical.... Before that she attended a dedicated performance of The Broadway musical Sarafina... Her presence in the gallery was always a special moment for the cast and audience," Mkhize said. 

“The theatre will continue to honour her life and memory by staging theatrical works that question the status quo and critically engage with the complex layers and internal contradictions of the new South Africa. Her spirit of courage will forever inspire us. May her soul rest in peace," he said.

The venue was packed to capacity and as the crowd sang along to Mutukudzi's famous song Neria, others who had not secured seats tried to negotiate with the guards to let them inside the theatre. 

The crowd patiently queued and waited to make their way inside the theatre. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

Others opted to watch the performance on the screen outside.

The struggle stalwart will be laid to rest in the tranquil and exclusive Fourways Memorial Park on Saturday following a service at the Orlando Stadium where thousands are expected. 

She will be afforded a special funeral category one, which is the highest any civilian can be given.

African News Agency/ANA