Posted by: africanpressorganization | 15 November 2008

Oration by the President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, during the funeral service of Miriam Zenzile Makeba.



Oration by the President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, during the funeral service of Miriam Zenzile Makeba.


PRETORIA, South Africa, November 15, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Oration by the President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, during the funeral service of Miriam Zenzile Makeba.


The Makeba Family

Fellow Mourners

Fellow South Africans


Today South Africans, Africans and the entire world are mourning the passing on of a cultural icon of awesome proportions, Miriam Zenzile Makeba.


Miriam Makeba was a mother, a grand-mother, a sister and a friend to many in our country and the world at large.


We are indeed saddened by her departure. We are hurt that her exceptionally creative impulses will no longer nourish us with beautiful compositions.


We are all shocked at the sudden passing away of this peerless songstress and an epitome of artistic excellence.


Many of us are not sure how to react to the realisation that gone is the revitilising voice of a woman who captured the hearts of the African people from Guinea Conakry to Uganda, from Nigeria to Cape Town.


Miriam Makeba was also adored across the world because of her meaningful lyrics and impassioned music.


She bestrode the world like the Colossus that she was, spreading the message of peace and love.


Her music was a language of universal appeal, touching people across different nations.


She inspired the music and thought of some of the cultural icons in the world.


Among others, she will be particularly remembered for her timeless song, ‘West Winds’, which inspired Nina Simone’s seminal song, ‘To be Young, Gifted and Black’.


We are gasping for breath at the thought of never again sighting the dignified, larger-than-life figure of Miriam Makeba, the woman of grace yet modest persona.


We have indeed lost one of our own.


Fellow South Africans


Miriam Makeba was a musician first and foremost. As a songstress she developed a base that gave her authority to delivery her message to world leaders to not only assist the South African people in their quest for freedom but the suffering people all over the world.


In the confusion of the moment it is all too easy not to see the wood for the trees: let us say it loud and clear- Miriam Makema was not affectionately called ‘Mama Afrika’ for nothing.


She was an African to the core: in word and in deed. She neatly captured the yearnings of her people in her music.


Yet her music reverberated with consciousness about the real conditions of South Africans.


Her music entailed cutting social commentary that aroused the consciousness of the people of the world about the demon of racism.


The turning point in her musical career came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary ‘Come Back Africa’ in 1959, for which she attended the premiere at the Venice Film Festival.


When fate brought her to the United States, she used the opportunity to expand the voice of freedom in a cultural context.


She stood before United Nations General Assembly back in 1963, at a tender age of 31 years, to denounce the evil system of apartheid which had forcibly sought to reduce the humanity of black people in South Africa.


Her moving submission to the United Nations belied her young age, and clearly cemented the view that Miriam Makeba was no ordinary artist.


As a result, she was refused entry back into South Africa, her native land, by those who had set themselves up as determiners of human destiny.


This denied her the opportunity to bury her late mother, but never broke her spirit, the more to fight on for the future where it would not be a privilege to treat human beings with dignity.


Her art sprang from deep inside her soul, motivated by solid principles that never separated human entertainment from the conditions of equality, peace, harmony and prosperity for all humanity.


When it could have been business as usual, using her God-given talents to rake in money and forgetting about the shameful conditions that reduced her fellow beings to mere shells, she refused to be trapped in the world of fashion.


She understood that fashion, fame and fortune are but aspects of human condition, not sufficient in and of themselves.


In the process she suffered just like any other voice of reason, opting to remain in the desolate life of exile.


She ably used her illustrious singing career as a platform to remind the rest of the world that South Africa was not a free country, and therefore not part of the family of nations.


Many of us were inspired by this charismatic, electrifying South African woman with a matchless ability to touch human spirit with her moving voice.


She never saw art as just another area of human endeavour de-linked from the realities of human existence.


Miriam Make mobilised the art and entertainment industry in the United States, fueling the momentum of world awareness about the evils of apartheid.


To some extent this also compromised her musical career, as some of her comrades in the music industry turned out to be advocates of a non-racialism in their own country.


As a result she suffered reprisals along with them, but remained strong and determined.


A lioness, this did not and could not deter her, as she saw music as another form of weapon to fight for what was right.


Clearly, she understood that the journey ahead would be a rugged terrain, full of difficulties that tested the endurance of human spirit.


Her lyrics thunder with rare African resonance, evoking the vision of an Africa free of oppression, instability, hunger and oppression.


She sang from the very depths of her heart, which in turn struck a chord deep down our soul.


While we should celebrate the life she lived, we should equally ask ourselves what abiding qualities we can learn from her rich and meaningful life.


She leaves behind a rich legacy. She was known to be a disciplined musician.


The best way to pay homage to the towering memory of this gifted artist is to uphold the values that she so selflessly embodied.


She knew only too well that once a show has been advertised to the audience she so revered, nothing must stop it from happening.


Not ill-health, not a sore throat nor any ailment would stop her from performing in the space she had carved for herself.

Her life should continue to inspire all of us; artists and non-artists alike, to strive for excellence and to uphold good values.


As she crosses over to the other side, Miriam Makeba will find musicians she performed with from the dusty townships of South Africa; percussionists and guitarists from Guinea Conakry and great Jazz musicians from the US such as Dizzy Gillespie.


I am certain that Miriam Zenzile Makeba is going to join many great African artists.


“Let the show go on!”



SOURCE : The Presidency, South Africa


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