I was sad when I heard about kwaito star, Mandoza’s death this week. My thoughts have drifted back constantly for the last few days to the day I met him. The Muse has hauled me out of bed to try and capture my recollections as fuzzy and elusive as they are.
It was a brief meeting – as I remember it- a hot summer’s day in Soweto.
I was volunteering for the Reach for a Dream Foundation that works with children who have life-threatening illnesses. The idea is that there is a lot of power in dreams so the Foundations tries to make these brave ones’ dreams come true to help them to fight their illness and bring them joy.
Many of the details are gone, dissolved in the mists of time, and yet they hover in multi-coloured snippets and sound bites in my mind.
Gomolemo was about eight or nine if my memory serves me correctly.
His dream was to have a birthday party. He had never had one before.
Everyone associated with Children’s’ Oncology Ward at Baragwanath Hospital got swept up in the excitement of the planned b’day celebration. Patients and staff alike offered suggestions to make the day memorable and I remember us all trying to keep the focus on the guest of honour : young Gomolemo.
I can’t remember whether Gomolemo specifically requested his presence or whether the other young people decided it was a good idea. All I know is, Mandoza was invited.
He was late in arriving – that much I do know. He made an entrance. Like a star! With razzmatazz, sun glasses, an impressive entourage and lots of gifts. A huge stuffed cat – either a tiger or a leopard was one of the offerings (one I found a bit strange!) and bright takkies with colourful trimmings.
As I write this, my soul is filled again with the sound of his music- a pulsating back-track to the festivities. Excited children running around and all the feasting and fun complete with balloons and colour. I sense lots of blue balloons, green grass and the austere concrete patches at the back of the ward as I try to recall it all.
As a regular visitor I was so used to the children, their stories and their amazing spirits that I was quite taken aback when Mandoza suddenly left and was found a little while later crying in the car. He was overwhelmed with sadness and had to be coaxed out.
I remember this so clearly because one of the administrators, Aida, teased me and asked what I had done to the star to make him cry? It became an anecdote I have loved to tell: the day I made Mandoza cry.
And now, some eleven years later, social media brings me the news of his death at the age of 38. I am amazed and bewildered because I can’t believe how young he must have been at Gomolemo’s party. He seemed so big, so powerful like his music (and yet, so vulnerable too). That’s celebrity for you right there, I suppose!
My heart goes out to his loved ones and I am so glad to read that people consider him and his music to have been a uniting force in our beloved country.
Most of all I hope that there were people and moments – small personal dreams – that helped him in his battle against cancer and that Gomolemo was glad to see him when he arrived Home.