Great talent goes to rest

Motivational author Stephen Covey says there are only two lasting bequests we can give our children ... one is roots, the other wings.

Motivational author Stephen Covey says there are only two lasting bequests we can give our children ... one is roots, the other wings.

Similarly, Mother Africa gave one of her gifted children, Miriam "Mama Africa" Makeba, who died in Italy this week, the cultural roots to anchor her identity and great music - for which we are eternally grateful.

Mother Africa gave the songstress proverbial wings, too, to set off on an international crusade against the apartheid system in South Africa in the 1960s.

For all the time she and her music were banned in this country, her songs defiantly reverberated through the doom and gloom of townships.

They stirred the passion of resistance and defiance among the angry youth of 1976.

Her music instilled hope in the parched souls of Africa; warned against despair amid adversity; and, above all, promised fulfillment of our quest for liberation.

Speaking on the radio early this year, Makeba baulked at a suggestion of retiring. Singers, she said, never retire as long as their voices allow.

Like a soldier dying in battle, Makeba succumbed to sudden death while doing what she loved most on stage - the very platform from which she had relentlessly waged battle against the evils of apartheid.

When the plane carrying her ashes touches down at OR Tambo International Airport from Italy this week, the same poignancy that punctuated her welcome after so many years of exile in the 1990s will again fill the air.

Only this time the tears of jubilation that greeted her return from exile will be replaced by tears of sadness and great loss.

Mama Africa will have come to her motherland to rest for good - something she would hardly countenance throughout her long journey in life because singing was her lifelong calling.

Love, she would say, was not only about two people but also about someone loving her people.

She loved her people and land dearly - a sentiment she sometimes felt sadly unrequited by her fellow South Africans.

Mama Africa, we love you.

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