South Africa bid farewell to Madiba’s ‘First Lady of Song’ as family and friends of African opera singer Sibongile Khumalo gathered for her funeral.
South Africa bid farewell to Madiba’s “First Lady of Song” as family and friends of African opera singer Sibongile Khumalo gathered for her funeral.
The event was held at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg yesterday morning under strict Covid-19 regulations, attended only by government officials and those close to Khumalo.
The singer died on Thursday from complications due to a stroke and long standing health problems.
Khumalo’s brother, Lindumuzi Mngoma led proceedings by apologising for the level of secrecy surrounding Khumalo’s final days. “Her last days were hard for the family because she was not even able to communicate,” he said. “We are hoping friends and relatives that were aggrieved and not able to see her in her last days will understand and pardon us for not making her condition public.”
Nevertheless, Khumalo’s extended family shared memories and prayers throughout the event. This included her daughter Ayanda Khumalo, son and violinist Tshepo Mngoma, and son Siya Khumalo.
Siya Khumalo said: “We have lost someone special. Someone with a beautiful soul who made everybody feel special. The love she had for everyone was something beautiful to witness. No matter what was going one, she always made time for those she cared about. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us.”
Known for her repertoire in jazz, classical music and African opera, Khumalo came to fame in the 1990s when she received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1993, which was then followed by her performing at Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration, and the singing of the national anthem at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Throughout her career, she recorded nine albums.
In 2008, she was appointed to the Order of Ikhamanga.
Nathi Mthetwa, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture was also present at the funeral and praised Khumalo for her contributions to South Africa’s music scene, likening her to a great tree that had fallen. “Hers was a life lived with a single-minded dedication, to ensure that more baobabs rise,” Mthetwa said. “It is because of her that our nation has long since begun to harvest from the rich forest of creativity, from the plantation of dignity and pride that she so diligently cultivated and nurtured over her decades of service to our nation.”