Zenzile Miriam Makeba, also known as Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist.
Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa.
Makeba’s career propelled her from township singing group to global celebrity, feted in some countries and banned from others.
Her 30 year exile journey began when her South African passport was revoked while she was pursuing lucrative showbiz in the United States.
She was recording and touring, and meeting all the stars from Bing Crosby to Marlon Brando: Mama Africa even appeared along with Marilyn Monroe at the famous birthday celebration for John F Kennedy. [35th US President]
Increasingly involved in, and identified with, black consciousness, Miriam became associated with radical activity not just against apartheid but also in the civil rights movement and then black power.
When she moved back to Africa with her second husband, the late Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Makeba found herself stuck in Guinea and in double exile. She was unable to return home and unwelcome in western countries such as France where she was banned.
Her music was also being banned in South Africa, but Makeba was relentless, and went on record to say; “People say I sing politics but what I sing is not politics, it is the truth. I’m going to go on singing, telling the truth.”
The result: Mama Africa reached a level of statesmanship that verged on saintliness around the world. She was the first choice performer at festivals as euphoria built up before and after the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990 and the realisation that apartheid was almost over.
By the time she passed away at 76, Makeba had been the recipient of Peace Prizes, Grammys and honorary degrees. – Source: The Guardian