For nearly half a century, Grammy-winning South African singer Miriam Makeba—known to fans as “Mama Africa”—traveled the world with powerful songs of joy, love, and revolution that have resonated in the hearts of people across the world. Against the disharmonious backdrop of Apartheid and international liberation movements around the world, Makeba’s captivating melodies exposed the brutality and racism of the South African government and made her an early icon of Black freedom.
Exiled from her homeland for nearly 30 years, Makeba moved to the US, but her controversial marriage to Black Panther Stokely Carmichael left her with revoked US record deals and cancelled national tours. In protest of an American brand of racism, Makeba moved to Guinea, where she continued her activism and leadership as the first black female representative to the United Nations.
Makeba died of a heart attack on November 9, 2008 after performing at a concert in Italy organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the region of Campania. She was 76 years old.
Makeba's involved life was the subject of award-winning director Mika Kaurismäki’s inspirational tribute to the singer and activist with the 2011 documentary "Mama Africa," which is packed with five decades of rare archival footage, interviews, and excerpts from the legendary performances that exhilarated millions and inspired musicians like Harry Belafonte, Hugh Masekela, and Paul Simon.
Announced this morning, a fictionalized feature film account of Makeba's life is in the works, hailing from Suzanne de Passe and long time business partner, Madison Jones of de Passe Jones Entertainment, in partnership with the Miriam Makeba Estate, Miriam Makeba Foundation and Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust.
Also on the team are Broadway producer Willette Klausner; music producer David Franco; and journalist Marc Le Chat, Makeba’s long-time publicist and confidant.
No ETA or further details on the project at this time.
Kaurismäki’s documentary on Makeba's life is currently available on various home video formats. Watch a trailer below: