South Africa mourns the loss of legendary musician, playwright, and Sarafina creator, Mbongeni Ngema, who tragically died at the age of 68 in a head-on collision while returning from a funeral in the Eastern Cape.
Ngema, known for his iconic 1992 movie Sarafina and hit songs like “Stimela Sase Zola,” was a multi-talented artist with significant contributions to the arts. His sudden passing has left a void in the cultural landscape of South Africa.
The acclaimed playwright’s most notable work, Sarafina, depicted student riots in apartheid Soweto. The 1992 film, developed in collaboration with jazz legend Hugh Masekela, recently gained renewed attention with a screening at the Cannes Film Festival’s classic section and a streaming release.
The Ngema family shared the heartbreaking news, stating, “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved brother, father, husband, and patriot, Mbongeni Ngema.” The fatal accident occurred as Ngema was a passenger in the vehicle.
“Sarafina” not only made Ngema a pan-African music star but also achieved success on Broadway, running for two years and receiving Tony and Grammy award nominations. The film adaptation starred Leleti Khumalo and Whoopi Goldberg.
Ngema’s artistic legacy extended beyond Sarafina, as he co-wrote the influential 1981 play “Woza Albert,” offering a satirical perspective on the plight of black people in apartheid-era South Africa. The play toured Europe and North America, contributing to the global awareness of South Africa’s struggle for freedom.
In addition to his achievements as a playwright, Ngema was an actor, choreographer, composer, and singer. His collaboration with Hugh Masekela produced the iconic song “Stimela sa se Zola.”
While Ngema’s artistic contributions were celebrated, his personal life faced controversy in 2020 when one of his ex-wives alleged sexual abuse in a book. Despite the challenges, Ngema’s impact on South African arts and culture remains indelible.
The tragic loss of Mbongeni Ngema leaves an irreplaceable void, but his artistic legacy will continue to resonate, inspiring future generations and shaping the narrative of South Africa’s cultural history.