South Africans are mourning the loss of Grammy-winning singer Miriam Makeba, who died in Italy on Sunday night (Nov. 9).
The singer has been described as "one of the greatest songstresses of our time," by the country's Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and tributes to Makeba are pouring in from her creative collaborators.
Makeba died at the Veneto Verde hospital near Naples after performing at the Castel Volturno.
Although no final confirmation has been received of the cause of death, the 76-year-old reportedly suffered a heart attack after taking part in a concert for Roberto Saviano, a writer threatened with death by the Mafia over his expose "Gomorrah." Her last performance was a half-hour set alongside other singers and artists.
Makeba's publicist, Cape Town-based Marc le Chat, has confirmed that the singer had been struggling with arthritis over the past years but had still been accepting key live dates.
Many here are seeing it as important that 'Mama Africa' - as Makeba was dubbed - died after performing for a cause that again puts human rights in the spotlight.
"Miriam Makeba, South Africa's goodwill ambassador died performing what she did best - an ability to communicate a positive message through the art of singing," said foreign affairs minister Dlamini-Zuma. "Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid colonialism through the art of song."
Makeba had first come to fame as a singer with the Manhattan Brothers in the 1950s. She later formed her own group The Skylarks and joined the cast of the now iconic musical "King Kong." In 1959 she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary "Come Back, Africa," which led to a meeting with Harry Belafonte who helped Makeba gain entry to the United States where she lived in exile.
Among her many notable achievements was becoming the first African woman to win a Grammy - for Best Folk Recording in 1966 with Harry Belafonte for "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba." Makeba also scored hits with "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song". Makeba's only daughter, Bongi, died in 1985.