South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday paid tribute to jazz and opera musician Sibongile Khumalo for her human rights activism, especially in advocating for the rights of performing artists and women in the country.
Paying tribute to Khumalo, who died on Thursday aged 63, Ramaphosa said the passing of the popular musician was “a moment of great sadness for all of us who were mesmerised and moved by the power, sensuality and improvisation of Khumalo’s unique voice.”
“Not only was she an unmistakable voice on concert stages around our country and the world, but she was a voice of advocacy for the performing arts, for the rights and place of women in our society, and for human rights at large,” Ramaphosa said.
He said as a music teacher, Khumalo was also “a voice of instruction and inspiration to new generations of artists who had the privilege of learning from a performer who was at the pinnacle of her career.”
Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa described Khumalo as “an ambassador of our heritage" and "a musical genius" who enchanted diverse audiences all over South Africa and beyond.
“Khumalo was a musical maestro who made it her life’s purpose to tell the story of our people through music. She left a legacy that will forever go down the annals of history,” Mthethwa said.
Khumalo, a 2008 recipient of the country’s highest cultural honour of the Order of Ikhamanga, had honorary doctorates from Rhodes University, the University of South Africa and the University of Zululand.