SA mourns passing of cultural icons

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his heartfelt sadness at the passing in recent days of anti-apartheid cultural activists, performers and National Order of Ikhamanga recipients Jonathan “Johnny” Clegg and Mama Nomhle Nkonyeni.

Clegg passed away on Tuesday in the presence of his family following an extended illness.

The award-winning singer, songwriter, anthropologist and academic was 66-years-old.

“A beloved, inspirational and heroic voice has fallen silent and leaves all of us bereft of an exceptional compatriot and icon of social cohesion and non-racialism,” said President Ramaphosa.

The President offered his condolences to Clegg’s family, friends and followers and the broad range of artists and organisations with whom he collaborated in South Africa and internationally.

During his performance career of four decades, Clegg sold more than five million albums.

“Johnny Clegg’s special relationship with Sipho Mchunu in Juluka, as well as with Dudu Zulu in Savuka, gave apartheid-era South Africa a window on the non-racial South Africa we were determined to achieve,” said the President.

“Johnny Clegg will always live on in our hearts and in our homes as we replay his stirring blend of cultural celebration and political resistance. We have lost a special patriot.”

In 2012, Clegg became an esteemed member of the National Order of Ikhamanga – awarded in silver – for his excellent contribution to and achievement in the field of bridging African traditional music with other music forms, promoting racial understanding among racially divided groups in South Africa under difficult apartheid conditions, working for a non-racial society and being an outstanding spokesperson for the release of political prisoners.

President Ramaphosa also expressed his condolences to the Nkonyeni family as well as friends and associates of the late actress across the African continent and other parts of the globe.

Nkonyeni passed away on Wednesday, 10 July 2019, at the age of 77.

“Mama Nomhle’s charisma and courage made her an extraordinary artist and compatriot who committed herself to the liberation of all South Africans and the broadening of South Africa’s cultural richness. She overcame the barriers of race and gender imposed by apartheid to become a cultural icon, who was duly honoured with the National Order of Ikhamanga,” said President Ramaphosa.

Nkonyeni’s career as an actress spanned 55 years. It saw her perform ground-breaking anti-apartheid theatre and mastered roles on stage and screen nationally and internationally.

“South Africa is a better place today due to the courage, resilience and irrepressible creativity of these two special icons from whom we are now taking our leave,” said President Ramaphosa. –