mama africa (1932-2008)


In the end, Miriam Makeba got her wish: to take leave of this world right after taking her final bow on stage, the only place where she felt truly at home. It was a grandly operatic ending for a woman whose very life defined drama. She endured multiple marriages and divorces, domestic abuse, alcoholism and cancer. Then, too, there were the 11-plus car accidents, the plane crash, the murders of her two uncles in the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960; the death of her only daughter, Bongi; the arrests, the banning of her records, the extended exile from her homeland, South Africa.

She spent six months of the first year of her life in jail, after her mother was arrested for making beer in their home. She was a teenager when apartheid became the law of the land, not that things were much better before. But under apartheid, she wrote, “things went from bad to worse. [Apartheid] would become one of the most hated words the world has ever known.”

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