The City of Johannesburg honoured four of South Africa’s cultural and literary icons – one of them posthumously – at the Siyabakhumbula (We Remember Them) Awards held at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton at the weekend.
Jonas Gwangwa, one of South Africa’s internationally acclaimed jazz musicians and renowned author Miriam Tlali were presented with the Arts and Culture Excellence Award at the gala dinner on Friday night.
Prolific poet Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile and the late award-winning author Nadine Gordimer were honoured with a Literary Excellence Award. The idea to recognise the four legends was first put on the table by Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau in 2013 while Gordimer was still alive. She died in July 2014 at the age of 90 before the honour could be conferred on her.
Gwangwa received a standing ovation as Executive Mayor Tau and Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development Councillor Chris Vondo presented him with his award.
Programme Director Todd Twala had all night told the audience about how honoured she was to preside over a ceremony honouring her childhood hero, Gwangwa.
And she was not alone. The whole room was in awe of the legendary musician.
“This is about celebrating our legends while they are still alive for their contribution to society, the country and the world. We do not take for granted your contribution to our struggle and what we have achieved as a result,” Mayor Tau said.
Gwangwa, in his distinct and characteristic black beret, said the award capped an incredible year for him.
“This year I had the opportunity to present my Amandla Cultural Ensemble to a South African audience for the first time. I also participated in the prestigious Siyabakhumbula Awards,” he said to applause. He said the struggle was a collective effort and through determination and persistence South Africans had triumphed against all odds.
Family members of Tlali, Gordimer and Kgositsile accepted the stars’ awards, which each came with a cheque for R20 000.
MMC Vondo thanked Gwangwa and his fellow award recipients for their contribution to the struggle for freedom. He said this must be jealously guarded. He also thanked cellular network operator MTN, the City’s partners and the Mayor’s wife, Pilisiwe Twala-Tau, for organising the event.
Mayor Tau’s special guests included Councillor Khalifa Sall, Mayor of Dakar in Senegal; Councillor Jacqueline Moustache-Belle, Mayor of Victoria in Seychelles and Co-President of the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG); and Councillor Mpho Nawa, Deputy Chairman of the South African Local Government (SALGA). The three are among 5 000 delegates currently attending the five-day Africities Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre.
The Siyabakhumbula Awards were initiated by poet and musician Mzwakhe Mbuli and were staged in partnership with the City of Johannesburg and the SABC for three years – from 2012 to 2014 – to honour “departed” prominent South Africans whose contribution had positively touched many lives. At the request of the City, the “Living Legends” category was added to honour South Africa’s unsung heroes and heroines while they were still alive.