Miriam Makeba. Picture: Mark Hutchinson/ Lulama Zenzile African News Agency (ANA)/Archives
Miriam Makeba. Picture: Mark Hutchinson/ Lulama Zenzile African News Agency (ANA)/Archives

Miriam Makeba’s spirit lives on 10 years after her death

By Siphumelele Khumalo Time of article published Nov 9, 2018

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Ten years after music legend Miriam Makeba’s death, family and friends are fondly remembering her lasting legacy.

Makeba, affectionately known as Mama Africa, died of a heart attack during a concert in Italy in 2008.

Her grandchild Zenzi Makeba said on Thursday that it had been a tough decade without her greatest support system.

“I lost my mother, her only child, just before I turned 13 and so my grandmother raised me. There are so many memories she left me with but the one thing I will take with me is how she taught me to love and respect myself, deal with things hands on and fight for justice," Zenzi said: 

“Even though losing my mother was painful, I am honoured to have had the privilege of being raised by grandma. I really miss and love her. It gets so much harder especially at this time of the year.”

Despite the pain, Zenzi is happy that her grandmother's spirit still lives on.

“Mama represented the flame of unity and even though she is gone, I can feel her spirit and it continues to live on. Our family is lighting candles to pay respects to our legendary grandmother,” she added.

Long-time friend and legendary singer Dorothy Masuka said: “I really miss Miriam a great deal. If there is anyone I miss the most in this world, it is my sister. I miss spending time with her and just being in her presence and doing things that sisters do.”

As part of commemorating her life, the Miriam Makeba Foundation will be screening the movie Mama Africa at universities in South Africa.

Makeba was not only a singer but also a songwriter, actress and an activist.

She was popular for music across genres such as Afro pop, jazz and world music, and fought against apartheid.

Born in Johannesburg to Swazi and Xhosa parents, Makeba was forced to find employment as a child after the death of her father.

She had a brief and allegedly abusive first marriage at the age of 17, gave birth to her only child in 1950, and survived breast cancer.

Her vocal talent had been recognised when she was a child, and she began singing professionally in the 1950s.

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