JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — South African singing legend and activist "Mama Africa" Miriam Makeba on Wednesday made her final journey home, arriving in Johannesburg from Italy where she died age 76.
Makeba's wooden coffin was met at OR Tambo Airport by the singer's family, who were joined by arts minister Pallo Jordan and several prominent South African musicians.
Family and friends led a procession of cars to take the coffin from the airport to a mortuary in Soweto, radio reports said.
The South African cabinet was discussing a state funeral for Makeba during its weekly meeting, said arts ministry spokesman Sandile Memela.
"There is no doubt that the whole question of whether Mama Africa should recieve a state funeral will definitely come up," said Memela.
"A decision has not yet been made but it is hoped that at the end of the meeting... we'll know what the plans are."
Makeba's band, who returned to South Africa on Tuesday, gave details of the star's final concert to the local media.
"She was enjoying herself," Zamo Mbutho, a backing singer and composer with the band, told the Sowetan newspaper.
The audience had loved her performance, althought she played fewer songs than originally planned. She finished off with "Pata Pata", one of her best known hits, he added.
"After the song she thanked the audience, blew kisses at them with a radiant smile and left the stage. As she went past me, she put the mic on the drum. As she went down the stairs, she fell."
"It was the first time she left alone," guitarist Mandla Zikalala told the Star.
Born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932, Makeba was one of Africa's best known singers, famed for hits such as "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song" but also for speaking out about the abuses of apartheid.
South Africa's white regime revoked Makeba's citizenship in 1960 and even refused to let her return for her mother's funeral. The singer spent more than three decades in exile, living in the United States, Guinea and Europe.
Makeba won a Grammy award for Best Folk Recording with US singer Harry Belafonte in 1965. But her music was outlawed in her homeland after she appeared in an anti-apartheid film.
"I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots," she said in her biography. "Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realising."
While she was still in enforced exile, she performed with Paul Simon in the US singer's 1987 Graceland concert in Zimbabwe, neighbouring South Africa.
She finally returned to her homeland in the 1990s after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, as the apartheid system they had both fought for so long began to be dismantled.
But it took her six years to find someone in the South African recording industry to produce a record with her. She entitled it "Homeland."
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