Today marks the 80th Birthday of the late, great Bra Hugh Masekela. The iconic African musician brought the stories of the African people to life through his melodies and masterfully curated lyrics.
His music spoke of love and friendship, but it also dealt with the tense political realities many African people faced. His music is celebrated all over the world, from New Orleans to Soweto, from the Cape Flats to Tokyo.
However, Bra Hugh was more than just a musician, he was a revered Pan-Africanist, a creative industry activist and a cultural pioneer. He was committed to the realisation of a truly post-colonial African landscape.
A little over a year since his passing, the Masekela family, in collaboration with Design Indaba's founder Ravi Naidoo and former Design Indaba speaker Sir David Adjaye, are preparing to unveil a memorial pavilion in his honour.
The unveiling of the memorial will take place in June.
Embracing African tradition, the memorial will serve as a space where visitors are able to take a moment to reflect and celebrate the work, life and impact of Bra Hugh.
“African monuments are a place of gathering and reflection, they help us edify the significance of our ancestors, our heritage and culture. Monuments act as a reminder of our duty in the present to honour the past, they spur us to make a better future’’, says Adjaye.
Inspired by African burial and ritual practices, including traditional cultural and spiritual beliefs, the pavilion will serve as a way to remember and connect with those who have left the physical realm and who are now embracing the role as their ancestors.
The memorial pavilion features a perforated roof top which mimics local flora capturing the light and breeze. The shadows from the surrounding plant life are reflected across the pavilion floor welcoming visitors old and new.
On the base of the pavilion is a statement inscribed by the Masekela family. The structure of the pavilion will also feature specially selected stones. These stones are a representation of the various nations where Bra Hugh spent time in while in exile.
The memorial will be erected over his grave at Johannesburg's Westpark Cemetary on Heroes Acre.
Barbara Masekela, representing the Masekela family, says: “Our family could not be more honoured to have such an iconic son of the soil, Sir David Adjaye design this immutable memorial pavilion which beautifully reflects Hugh’s openness and his love of Africa. A true Pan-Africanist, we are touched that the design is by a world-renowned architect born in Ghana, another part of our beautiful continent Hugh regarded as home.”
The pavilion is just an extension of the ways in which Design Indaba would like to continue to honour Bra Hugh, a dear friend.
Last year, Design Indaba and the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town honoured him by announcing that the second floor of the modern art museum will be named the Hugh Masekela Gallery.
“I believe it is fitting that a cultural icon such as Hugh Masekela is honoured by yet another cultural icon such as the Zeitz MOCAA, ” explained Naidoo at the time.