Even if the name Miriam Makeba doesn’t ring a bell immediately, you’ll probably recognize this undeniably catchy pop song that made her famous in America- “Pata Pata’.
With swinging sixties style, Makeba was one of the first singers to bring the culture of South Africa to American audiences. Nicknamed ‘Mama Africa’, Makeba was an international celebrity, helping create and popularize the world music genre. She had an award-winning recording career, appeared on countless tv shows, and was even personally asked by President Kennedy (who was a big fan) to sing at his birthday party.
But Makeba was more than a striking face with killer pipes. She used her popularity to raise awareness about the injustices happening in her homeland under apartheid, and was an active participant in the civil rights movement in America. She testified against apartheid at the United Nations, and was later named a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Her importance on the political stage was such that when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, he made it his mission to persuade her to return to South Africa. She continued an active recording and political career until her death in 2008.
Now is the perfect time to revisit Makeba’s legacy. MAMA AFRICA is a vibrant documentary of a woman who was a trailblazer in both the artistic and political worlds. The film is filled with gorgeous archival footage of her best musical performances and engrossing interviews with fellow artists and activists. While Makeba’s personal life story is engaging enough, the film also documents some of the most important social justice revolutions of the past 50 years, capturing the spirit and energy of the causes she championed throughout her life.
Today, Makeba’s story is just as relevant as it was in the past. Come for the tunes, stay for the revolution! Join us for MAMA AFRICA, screening as part of the ongoing Cinema Of Resistance series, at the AFS Cinema September 23 and 30.