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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Wits honours Sibongile Khumalo with a posthumous award

Dr Sibongile Khumalo, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music posthumously by the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).

The doctorate was conferred on Wednesday at the virtual graduation ceremony where teaching students from the Faculty of Humanities received their degrees.

Daughter of the late jazz singer and cultural activist, Ayanda Khumalo, on her mother’s behalf.

She said the family was humbled and filled with gratitude and pride for the honour of receiving the award.

Sibongile passed away on 28 January this year, at only 63.

She came from a musical dynasty. Her father, Professor Khabi Mgoma, was also awarded an honorary doctorate in 1987 by Wits University for his contribution to the preservation and development of South African music. Mgoma was a classical musician, a community builder in Soweto and, ultimately, a music professor at the University of Zululand.

Her grandfather was a maskandi artist. This is a popular form derived from indigenous Zulu music created by migrant labourers, mostly accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

Lecture at the University of Fort Hare, Thembela Vokwana said but it was her mother, Grace Mngoma, who bestowed her with her warm mezzo-sopranno/alto voice.

“In numerous sources, including writer and activist Es’kia Mpahlele’s memoir Down Second Avenue, Grace is mentioned as an alto soloist in productions of Handel’s Messiah that her husband Khabi organised and hosted in Soweto and Johannesburg as far back as the late 1950s,” said Vokwana.

Sibongile qualified at the universities of Zululand and the Witwatersrand in both music and personnel management. She went on to have a distinguished career as a singer as well as an arts advocate and member of numerous national arts committees.

She sang at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s president in 1994 and in 2008 she was awarded the Silver Order of Ikhamanga by the president.

Sibongile performed internationally with a number of orchestras and jazz bands.

Ayanda said her mother was ecstatic in March last year when she learned that Wits would confer an honorary doctorate.

“Sadly she never got to experience this moment physically, but I know that she is with us in spirit,” said Ayanda.

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