Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa learns of the passing of the venerable and incomparable great Oliver Mtukudzi

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
23 Jan 2019

With deep shock and sorrow, Minister Nathi Mthethwa has learnt of the passing of Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi on Wednesday. Mr Mtukudzi was a musician par excellence, philanthropist, human rights activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Southern Africa Region.

Mr Mtukudzi is considered Zimbabwe’s most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icon of all time. Despite being a son of the soil of Zimbabwe, with his hauntingly beautiful and husky voice, he had over the decades become the most revered voice to emerge from that country to being devotedly loved in South Africa, the SADC region and throughout the world.

Being a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, he travelled the world using his fame to promote Unicef in his and other countries internationally. His role as a Goodwill Ambassador meant using his gift and musical genius, and the fame as a result thereof for "goodwill". That is who "Bra Tuku" was. Not just a person with a famous or immediately recognised name, but some who used his name for goodwill while fighting for human rights for all.

Here in South Africa, when Minister Mthethwa began the programme for Africa's regeneration which reached its zenith annually during “Africa Month”, Mr Mtukudzi would consistently prove integral to the "Africa Month" programme as part of the Department's reference group which comprised Salif Keita and Dr Wally Serote amongst other venerable individuals. Mr Mtukudzi was one of the key pillars of this Africa integration programme of the continent- socially, culturally, politically and economically. At last year's "Africa Month" commemorations at Windybrow Theatre in Johannesburg, “Bra Tuku” indicated that due to his health and age, that commemoration would also signal his "taking a bow" from future commemorations. That conversation he had with Minister Mthethwa, now painfully signals a premonition and words uttered in the literal sense of the “falling of the curtain” only months later of the incomparable “Bra Tuku”.

We would be remiss to fail to acknowledge the coincidence in time of the fall of this continental giant on the day we commemorate one year since the passing of the legend that is Hugh "Bra Hugh" Masekela.

As was with "Bra Hugh", "Bra Tuku" was bestowed heaps of honour in his lifetime, in his country of birth Zimbabwe and here in South Africa and the continent at large. These include KORA Awards; SAMA Finalist for Best Traditional/African Adult Contemporary DVD; the M-Net Best Soundtrack Award in 1992, for "Naira"; the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and The International Council of Africana Womanism (ICAW) Award in recognition of his luminary role in uplifting African women through his artistic work – music and a diversity of art forms – offered as community development at his Arts Academy at Pakare Paye in Norton; and lastly but certainly not exhaustively, the honour bestowed upon him by the Government of Italy with the prestigious “Cavaliere of the Order of Merit Award” in recognition of his work as an international musician.

As a people, may we always be mindful that we have lived in the times of incomparable legends such as Mr Mtukudzi. May ours at this time, not be just a time of mourning for a great life lost, but a lesson and challenge of how their good deeds and gifting will never be lost to us as a continent. Their lives mean a great privilege to us all for having lived in their midst and witnessed the magic their talent meant to us all. Their lives and gifting are ours to emulate, even if we may fall short. Words cannot describe how much we will miss the great Oliver Mtukudzi, we take solace in the fact that his timeless music will live in our hearts for eternity.

Finally, to "Bra Tuku" we say, thank you for the music. You demonstrated that done best, it (the music) transcends borders, culture and ethnicities, as it is the language that is best understood with the heart.

On behalf of South Africa I wish to join the nation of Zimbabwe at this time in mourning the loss of this towering giant. We send our deepest sympathies to his loved ones and fans across the globe. "Zorora murugare Bra Oliver Mtukudzi".

For further information, and interview requests please contact: Asanda Magaqa (Ms), Spokesperson for the Minister of Arts and Culture – 072 372 6807 and asandam@dac.gov.za

Issued by The Department of Arts and Culture