Across the country South Africans are in mourning as one of the country’s most well-known musicians, Johnny Clegg, has passed away at the age of 66. Dubbed “The White Zulu” for the ease with which he spoke isiZulu, and the inclusion of the language and traditional dances in his work, Clegg began his musical career in defiance of the apartheid government, performing to mixed-race audiences, with his partner, Sipho Mchunu. Together the pair performed as Juluka, but were limited to offering shows in venues like churches and hostels as their music was banned and the national broadcaster was prohibited from playing it.
Johnny Clegg was also an academic and studied Social Anthropology at Wits University, later joining the department as a lecturer. He also spent time at the then University of Natal, where he lectured and completed a number of seminal papers on Zulu music and dance. It was this passion for anthropology that saw Clegg involved in the documentary series, A Country Imagined.
An exploration of South Africa, the 13 episode series follows Clegg as he travels the country, looking at the diverse ways in which artists have imagined, and responded to, the South African landscape. Durban Local History Museums researcher, Steven Kotze, assisted with writing and research for the episode that focused on our own province, KwaZulu-Natal: Living the past through the present.
Clegg passed away in his home in Johannesburg on the 16th July 2019, after a long battle with cancer. His legacy, as someone who used music to cross divisions and unite a people, will be remembered for years to come.
Our deepest condolences to his friends and family.