Saturday, November 15, 2008


Miriam Makeba is dead.The South African legend gracefuly fell in a dead faint while on stage at Castel Volturno, near Naples. She was ailing. Her life hung by a thread. She died of cardiac arrest somewhere between the 9th and the 10th of November. Doctors in Naples believe death occurred minutes past midnight.

How like Miriam to leave docors perplexed. She wasn't mad about them.

The news that the clan of the Casalesi ( the Dons of the Camorra, as the criminal organization which rules Naples is called) had slaughtered eleven inocent African immigrants two months before her death, drove her to accept the invitation of the organizers of the concert.

The concert was held on behalf of Roberto Saviano, the thirty year old Neapolitan journalist and author of the much acclaimed book " Gomorra."

For his bravura and his balls, Saviano now lives in Army barracks under constant Carabinieri escort. Every two days, he and his escort changes bases and/or apartments. This way of living or is it a non-life? has, so far lasted two years.

It is almost impossible to find criminal organizations with a sense of humor and self irony, in spite of the fact that Neapolitans are supposed to be endowed with wit and capacity to laugh at life's travails, The Camorra's wrath at the expose of Roberto Saviano will not be abated. Nothing less than a vicious death sentence has been meted out. Sums of money comprising up to seven figures have been offerred to anyone who wil literally bring them the head of Saviano.

It is singularly symbolic that Miriam Makeba died in Castel Volturno. She was always jetting off somewhere in the globe. Her heart could have given out at any moment and at any place. It stopped at that particular place in Italy which even the ancient Romans called Africa.

Today it has turned into a small transplanted piece of Africa. Africans work in the fields, in the factories, on the streets as peddlers, and even as prostitutes because they are slaves of the Camorra.

They suffer and are martyred there. Like those savagely murdered by the Camorra two months ago.

Dozens of heavily armed Camorristi stood by the entrance to the theater where Makeba was to sing. Who says intimidation does not work? Many Neapolitans at the sight of this Gorillas with automatic weapons at the ready sighed and turned around. Ingrained fear overcame them. After centuries of the Camorra, dare we think that the Neapolitans are finally crushed and beaten? I can't answer that yet, I just don't know. No one knows. Perhaps none of us will ever know and then perhaps we might. Time will tell.

Yet dozens upon dozens of Africans stared the evil men down and walked between them to choose their places inside the theater.

" This is disappointing," said Miriam. "In the worst days of apartheid our people came by the thousands to my concerts. They challenged the authorities and never wavered not even in the face of death."

When Madiba ( Nelson Mandela ) was sent to Robben Island where he spent 28 years in solitary confinement, Miriam and her then husband jazz trumpet player Hugh Masekela also went into exile. They did not return until Madiba was released in 1991.

When apprised of her death Madiba said through his tears"She was the Mother of our struggle and of our young nation. She deserves the title of Mama Africa. Our people,black and white have always thought of her as such."

Italy salutes Miriam Makeba," declared President Giorgio Napolitano who remembered her concerts in Italy durig the years of lead on behalf of human rights.

She addressed the United Nations General Assembly in March of 1964 to denounce apartheid and every form of racial discrimination.

My children Marc'Aurelio and Cinzia as well as I remember her sadly and lovingly. She was a guest at the Villa of the Saracen in Florence in the late seventies. She sang Pata Pata as we all danced the undulating South African way. Her voice was one you could only describe as many splendored and multicolored. We understood the words even if some of them were in Xhosa, Swazi, Zulu,Bantu and Botswana.

I also have vivid memories of her Pata Pata in the discoes of Madrid in 1969. One of my dearest friends Sandra Lee, who used to be a bullfighter loved to dance this tirelessly with her novio, H. R. H. Prince Gonzalo de Borbon.

Ah! so many bittersweet memories of the incomparable Miriam Makeba.

Farewell Beloved Artist and Singer. We shall miss you. Africa will miss you for now she is an Orphan.

Author's note:

She declared to all who would listen that she very much wished to read "Gomorra." An English edition had recently been made available. The book was handed to her on stage by by one of the Promoters of her concert at Castel Volturno. She smiled, took the book, opened the frontispiece and passed out, never to awaken again. What a dramatic way to die and pass to another realm! Could an artist and performer ask for anything more?

1 comment:

  1. Cara Isabella,

    Thank you for this inspiring article.

    Would it be possible to include in the article the date when this sad event happened?

    This article deserves to be widely circulated. Again, molte grazie.




Isabel Van Fechtmann

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