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Society | Culture - Arts

New book celebrates Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makaba at book launch:
«I am free to what I want to say.»

© afrol News / Nisa / Miriam Makeba Collection
afrol News, 17 December
- The second-ever auto-biography of Miriam Makeba, South Africa's famous singer, composer, actress, humanitarian and women rights activist, has been launched with success in Johannesburg. More open than in her 1988 biography written while in US exile, Ms Makeba now says: "I am free to what I want to say." Numerous black and white photographs of the artist underline her colourful life.

- I discovered that this attractive and apparently so gentle and mature woman was a very political creature, in fact an uncompromising militant where her people's freedom was concerned, says Stokely Carmichael in the foreword of the book. Mr Carmichael is an African American political activist who coined the phrase Black Power and was married to Ms Makeba for 10 years and lived with her in Guinea.

- More than any other human beings, she was eyewitness to the birth of a continent, Mr Carmichael explains. "She sang in Nairobi at Kenyan independence, in Luanda, at Angolan independence, at the inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa. For Samora Machel in Mozambique." But she also suffered from the criminal apartheid regime: two of her uncles were murdered at the Sharpeville Massacre and she had to live in exile in the United States.

The book guides us through the life of one of Africa's greatest stars ever, mostly through the voice of Ms Makeba herself. The co-author of the book, Nomsa Mwamuka, sat through many hours of conversation with the South African star. With a disk recorder in hand, Ms Mwamuka was able to capture many of Ms Makeba's stories and compile them into a comprehensive work.

Ms Makeba got to know her biographer after Ms Mwamuka's Johannesburg-based company, Nisa Global Entertainment, had provided intellectual property consultancy services to her. After working in South African television and radio for many years, this is Ms Mwamuka's first book, published by her proper company.

Asked what makes this book about Ms Makeba so special, the editorial emphasises that it is only Ms Makeba's second book following a biography she wrote with author James Hall in 1988. This second book "was more open," the wr

Miriam Makeba with Bill Slater in 1965

© afrol News / Nisa / Miriam Makeba Collection
iters say. Her first book was written while Miriam Makeba was in her 30-year US exile, following a South African ban on her return to the country.

It is also a book that chronicles the later years of her life. "Her homecoming after 31 years in exile and takes us to the present even drawing on experiences Miriam Makeba has had this past year," the editorial holds. The new biography thus has the most complete account of her life to date. Also stylistically, it is "a visual and colourful rendition of an extraordinary life, with numerous black and white photographs of the artist and her friends."

The book was formally released in Johannesburg in late November. Both Ms Makeba and the co-author spoke at the well visited book launch. Ms Makeba mostly dedicated her speech to her near fatal experience, when at the age of 33 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and told she had not long to live.

She was thus in exile in America and with no one to turn to. Her message reminded the attendees at the book launch of her activist soul: "Women go for pap smears. Men make sure your partners go for pap smears," Ms Makeba urged.

She went on saying that, while it is standard for women in the west to go for regular tests, it still remained a problem to get African women to go. This experience, she said, was just one of the many experiences in her life that are written about in the book. She thus hoped people could "gain something positive" from by reading her book.

According to Nisa Global Entertainment, non-South African readers can order the book through the following websites: and A final tip for investors: The publishers, STE, "are looking for publishing partners around the world," the editorial notes.

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