Celebrating a legend


It is always refreshing to celebrate our icons while they are still alive and attending the Letta Mbulu honorary lecture showed the importance of showing appreciating and thanking our heroes in their presence. Music legend mama Letta Mbulu is no ordinary artist and is among the likes of Mirriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, her beloved husband Caiphus Semenya, who used art to tell of SA’s apartheid past and made the world aware of the plight of our people.

With a theme: “The meaning of the African Diaspora in our National Liberation Discoured”, the lecture was delivered by Professor Noor Nieftagodien, Head of History Workshop at Wits University.

In his address Prof Nieftagodien touched on the role artists played in liberating Africa. “The idea of a common Africa developed over time. The policies, the idea, the networks that constituted the liberation movement were made possible by the presence of SA artists working American artists and other fellow artists from the continent”.

Nieftagodien emphasised on the role poetry, music and arts played in the emancipation of Africa, noting that it was Letta Mbulu and others who were pioneers of change and not just politicians.

The lecture was followed by another honour for mama Letta Mbulu when her house in Orlando East, Soweto was honoured with a Johannesburg Heritage Site Blue Plaque from the Heritage Ways in partnership with the City of Joburg Immovable Heritage department and the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, for being the cradle that reared a national treasure.

Tsheno Mokhele of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation told those in attendance that monuments and statues have only been apportioned to politicians and not musicians and this should not be the case. “The road to independence in Africa was hugely influenced by various artists some of whom went to foreign lands, hoping to spread the message that the time to free Africa was now and as such it must not be postponed. While we celebrate the centenary of Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu, South African liberation story must include works that have their genesis in the struggles against land dispossessions from 1913.

Other speakers included Letta Mbulu’s son Mosese Semenya who recalled fond memories of growing up in America, exiled with his parents, sharing on how his mother imparted a sense of pride in his heritage. Plan Act SA’s Mike Makwela, Lookman Adesai of the African Diaspora Forum shared their views on the theme and related it to mama Letta Mbulu’s contribution to the African diaspora.



Mama Letta Mbulu turned 75 on Heritage Day (24 September) and was celebrated Orlando with a fun walk and the unveiling of her home as a heritage site.




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