Nicknamed Mama Africa, Zenzile Miriam Makeba was a South African singer and actor. She was born on 4 March 1932 and died on 9 November 2008. She spent her first few months on earth in prison with her mom who had been given a six month sentence for selling a homemade beer. At the age of 21, Makeba joined the South African jazz group the Manhattan Brothers.
In 1956, Mama Africa produced her first solo which went on to be the first ever South African record to feature in the Billboard top 100. This shot her to stardom as she went on to grab other awards and recognitions in her career. Some include:
- She is the first African recording artist to win a Grammy Award after her 1965 collaboration with Harry Belafonte.
- Winner of the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986
- Received the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold by the United Nations Association of Germany, 2001
- Voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004.
The UN goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist is also greatly remembered by many for her role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa alongside other heroes like Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. She is noted for taking part in concerts with other great icons like Paul Simon, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Despite her many setbacks such as being exiled from South Africa during the apartheid era and suffering from cancer twice, the mother of one never gave up and stayed true to her roots. A true example she is, for women and men of value.
I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa and the people without even realising. -Miriam Makeba