An interfaith musical memorial dedicated to South Africa’s revered anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu on Wednesday danced a rabbi and a Buddhist monk as Cape Town bade farewell to its first black Anglican archbishop.
The colorful town hall service for Tutu, who died on Sunday, was attended by family members and politicians, many of whom wore purple in honor of the Nobel Laureate’s purple office shirt from the peace.
The event culminated when the top of the 1980 charts “Paradise Road”, which became an unofficial anthem for the fight against apartheid, was performed with emotion by the barefoot South African singer Zolani Mahola.
Tutu passed away peacefully in a health center on Sunday, just three months after his 90th birthday, garnering tributes from around the world.
Ahead of his funeral on Saturday, numerous events are being organized across South Africa to commemorate the pillar of the liberation struggle, who was also a vocal critic of human rights violations across the world.
He coined the phrase “Rainbow Nation” with the advent of democracy in South Africa, and that ideal was fully on display at the memorial on Wednesday night.
Despite a limited number due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lot of pomp and ceremony at the event, with music from the South African Youth Choir and guitarist Jonathan Butler, among others.
The Cape-born, Grammy-nominated butler, who arrived from Los Angeles and whose music was popular during the anti-apartheid struggle, had a few in the audience – including a rabbi and a Buddhist monk – dancing to their seats.
Prayers were offered by Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, traditional African and Muslim leaders.
The indigenous Khoisan people, dressed in skins and holding an animal skull in the air, also paid tribute to the Tutus.
Cheryl Carolus, a veteran anti-apartheid member of the ruling ANC party, who attended the event, called on South Africans to continue fighting for a better democracy.
“Freedom is not a spectator sport, it has to be practical… Tata, we will take over,” she said, using the nickname Tutu.
“We give thanks for our father’s 90th birthday, almost against all odds,” Carolus said. “We know that he was not doing well lately, and that he himself was ready to go, and that he left us in peace.”