In Loving Service
"Some people call me 'Mama Africa'. At first I said to myself: why do they want to give me that responsibility, carrying a whole continent? Then I understood that they did so affectionately. So I accepted. I am Mama Africa", said Miriam Makeba in an interview in 2005.
When news of 'Mama Africa's' passing hit us last Monday, the world was reminded of the mantle that she humbly carried to the end. Poignantly, Mama Miriam had just finished performing at a human rights protest concert in Italy before she collapsed and later died.
On reading the numerous obituaries, and hearing moving tributes of special memories left with those who were close to her, it is clear; Mama Africa's love for humanity and dedication to her life's purpose never wavered. Hers was a gracious walk along a path which called for much personal sacrifice and for the deliberate use of her colossal singing talent, to illuminate human rights inequalities around the world and specifically to the land of her birth, South Africa.
Her generosity of spirit was legendary. While living in exile in various countries around the world, Mama Miriam provided a home of warm solace for fellow musicians and freedom fighters. An open-door policy at home meant pots were always on the boil and her kitchen fed many on not only good food, but spiritual sustenance.
Mama Miriam's love-centred approach in her relentless fight against injustice touched people's hearts at home, onstage and in political circles.
She chalked up an array of notable accolades and awards in recognition of her work. Mama Miriam's clarity in her sense of purpose had been honed from a tender age.
Her matriarchal legacy serves as an inspiring reminder for us to take a closer look at our personal commitment to service. Whether Mama Miriam was offering a plate of heart-warming food or heart-rending insights into the tribulations of apartheid, her gifts were offered to the world.
In this age of rampant consumerism, the focus on individual gratification (no matter how fleeting) is eroding our sense of community and dedication to serving our fellow brothers and sisters.
Values of respect
It's never too early to start! As mothers, biological or otherwise, we strive to nurture values of respect, compassion and love for others in our children. It would seem that in a world where 'what's in it for me' is rapidly dimming our commitment to service, the sooner we orient ourselves in 'how can I help' mode, the closer we'll come to achieving fulfilment and advancing humanity.
May you rest in peace Mama Miriam and your life's work lives on as a beacon of inspiration for us all.