This fall the Krannert Art Museum hosted an exhibit of materials related to the famous South African singer, Miriam Makeba. This exhibition consisted of a collection of recordings by Makeba together with artifacts from the history of South African music. Makeba, also known as Mama Africa, popularized African music around the world, appearing with such stars as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon, and Nina Simone. Her musical style fused American Jazz with African sounds long before the phrase “world music” was coined.
She rose from the townships of Johannesburg to become an international star after appearing in the 1959 anti-apartheid documentary film Come Back Africa, which made an enormous impression on viewers abroad. Makeba played the lead female role and became an outspoken critic of the apartheid government. Her activism resulted in her expulsion that set in motion thirty years in exile. During this time, Makeba dedicated her music to the political struggle of black South Africans under apartheid.