One of South Africa’s most celebrated musicians, Johnny Clegg, has died at the age of 66, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Known as the “white Zulu”, he was a vocal critic of the apartheid government which ruled until 1994.
The British-born musician, who uniquely blended western and Zulu music, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.
His best-known hit Asimbonanga, released in 1987, was dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
Meaning “We have not seen him” in Zulu, the song was one of the first to openly call for Mandela’s release.
At the time, the future first black president of South Africa was still in jail and considered a threat to the apartheid state.
Clegg – a white man who learnt to speak and sing in Zulu – became a symbol of democratic South Africa and was chosen to sing at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2013.
His long-time music manager, Ronny Quinn, who announced the news of his death, said Clegg left “deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers himself or herself to be an African”.
“He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity.”
Asimbonanga ofana no Johnny Clegg. He has left deep footprints in our hearts. He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. #RIPJohnnyClegg https://t.co/vSnqHv5XkO pic.twitter.com/LT9ZQLL2Jy
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) July 16, 2019
Tributes have been pouring in for Clegg, including from the South African government.