Music icon Yvonne Chaka Chaka was, on 11 May, awarded an honorary degree by Rhodes University in South Africa. The award is not for her impactful music career, however, but for her humanitarian work which has continued to grow beyond limits.
“The Degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) (honoris causa) in recognition of your sustained, extensive and wide-ranging humanitarian work. This work includes your role as a Champion of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB & Malaria,” the university said.
The 53 year-old born in Soweto entertained guests with three of her songs including ‘Amazing Man’—in which she paid tribute to Madiba and other great South African leaders—during the ceremony. She was honored along with a top judge, Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
“Growing up in Soweto, I never thought I’d one day wear a red robe, let alone from a wonderful institution such as Rhodes University,” remarked Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
Born Yvonne Machaka in 1965, Chaka Chaka is an internationally recognised South African singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, humanitarian and teacher. She was dubbed the “Princess of Africa” (a name she received after a 1990 tour), and has been at the forefront of South African popular music for 27 years — popular in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Gabon, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.
Tracks such as “I’m Burning Up”, “Thank You Mr Dj”, “I Cry For Freedom”, “Motherland” and the ever-popular “Umqombothi” (African Beer) swept across nations and the song “Umqombothi” was featured in the opening scene of the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda.
She has performed along the likes of Angelique Kidjo, and South Africans greats like Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, to name a few. She has also performed for a host of world leaders including Queen Elizabeth II, US President Bill Clinton, and South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Chaka Chaka is a champion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the United Nations MDG Envoy for Africa, and the Goodwill Ambassador for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. She also established her own charity, the Princess of Africa Foundation, using the name first given to her in Uganda. In 2012, she was the first African woman to receive the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award.