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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

‘Dr Chaka Chaka’: Princess of Africa gets degree from Tshwane University

The honorary doctorate is the latest in a string of accolades.

It was all smiles, inspiring speeches, hugs and a special lunch as the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) yesterday conferred a doctorate of performing arts on world-acclaimed musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

The honorary doctorate is the latest in a string of accolades earned by the globally renowned singer who is also known as “the Princess of Africa”, who has led the South African popular music for 35 years.


A goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Chaka Chaka – who has shared the stage with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones and performed for Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II and Richard Branson – is known for her popular songs: I’m Burning Up, Thank You Mr DJ, I Cry for Freedom and Umqombothi.

Executive dean in the faculty of arts and design, Professor Nalini Moodley, described TUT’s conferring of an honorary doctorate as a realisation of a long-held dream.

“We recognised the powerhouse of the Princess of Africa and the value of her work, as it exemplifies artistic excellence, which is a key driver for the faculty of arts and design.

Dr Machaka’s contribution to society nationally, on the continent and globally, is significant for a South African who had to work against and within a highly constrained and unjust political system.”

Moodley said for the faculty and the university, the award was an important symbol in recognising how they were moving from good to great.

READ MORE: Yvonne Chaka Chaka relives her music journey

‘Journey of greatness’

“This accolade for Dr Machaka, creates for our students an opportunity to be exposed to the journey of a young artist who moves into spaces of greatness as an internationally renowned entrepreneur, humanitarian and teacher – bringing untold value,” he said.

“All those students in the performing arts, who have stars in their eyes, will look at your story and continue to reach for their dreams and beyond simply because you were able to achieve such an illustrious portfolio.

“[Through the arts] Dr Machaka’s advocacy work for social justice, empowerment of women and girls, resonates deeply with us.”

‘Society must transform’

Moodley said this was a time when activism was desperately needed to transform society and challenge its behaviour – through the subtleties and the not-so-subtle messaging of the arts.

“This activism spreads across many fields, to create a consciousness within our students and within our communities – around a wide spectrum of concerns, such as the dramatic shifts in climate and shocking unemployment rates.

“More specifically, activism is needed to deal with the endemic violence against women and children. We need more and louder voices against [gender-based violence] to see some degree of change.”

Acceptance speech

In her acceptance speech, Chaka Chaka said she was happy and motivated to be associated with highly respected people who do a lot for society.

“I think I am very fortunate and don’t take that for granted. I am very saddened that we had a young girl who was killed at this university.

“We need to work hard in the upbringing of better young men, because women should be treated fairly and with respect by society.

“The killing of children and women by those who are supposed to protect them has reached epidemic proportion and something has to be done.”

In South Africa, the first woman to be conferred the honorary doctorate of performing arts was Lucy Lloyd in 1911, by the University of Cape Town.

Ellen Khuzwayo was the first black woman to get an honorary doctorate by the Wits University 76 years later. Actress Lilian Dube and Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu are other women who received honorary doctorates.

Born Yvonne Ntombizodwa Machaka in Soweto, Chaka Chaka, 57, is married to medic Dr Tiny Mhinga.

ALSO READ: Yvonne Chaka Chaka honoured by wall painting

– brians@citizen.co.za

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