Unisa awarded Zenzile Miriam Makeba an Honorary Doctorate in Literature and Philosophy in 2002 and in 2009, named its newly renovated concert hall after her.


Grammy Award-winning artist Miriam Makeba had many remarkable ‘firsts’, including becoming the first African woman vocalist to achieve a US Top 10 hit with Pata Pata in 1967. Qongqothwane (“The Click Song”) and Malaika are also among her legendary songs. Born in Johannesburg to a sangoma (‘traditional healer’) mother, she became a professional jazz singer in the 1950s, performing in the vibrant nightclubs of the black cultural hub of Sophiatown, Johannesburg. International recognition came in 1959 with her lead role in the apartheid-defying musical King Kong. Her South African citizenship was revoked in 1963, and she gained entry to the USA, where she used her fame to testify powerfully against apartheid and later against other systems of injustice, earning her the nickname “Mama Africa”. She returned home to South Africa in 1991 at Nelson Mandela’s urging after his release from prison.