About the Film

Packed with five decades of rare archival footage and captivating melodies, Mama Africa tells the incredible story of Miriam Makeba. First introduced to American audiences by Harry Belafonte, Makeba’s songs exposed the injustice of Apartheid in South Africa to the world—resulting in a 30-year exile from her home country. Throughout her life, Makeba inspired millions through her powerful songs of joy, love, and revolution.

Film In Context

A Brief History of Apartheid

Who's Who in Miriam Makeba's Life
These people deeply affected and guided Miriam Makeba through her life. Get to know them a little to enhance your experience with the film.

Harry Belafonte 
Although Miriam Makeba was very popular in Africa already, it was Harry Belafonte (the “King of Calypso”) who introduced her to American audiences for the first time. At the time, Harry Belafonte was already quite popular as a singer and actor and was beginning to use his fame to address the social injustices happening all over the world, and to promote other black artists.

Stokely Carmichael
Born Kwame Ture, Stokely Carmichael went on to become the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”) and the “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Black Panther Party. Carmichael  opularized the term “Black Power” and married Miriam Makeba in 1968. They moved to Guinea in West Africa in 1969 and Miriam Makeba became Guinea’s official delegate to the United Nations. The two separated in 1973.

Black Panthers
Originally named the “Black Panther Party for Self-Defense,” the Black Panthers were an African-American Leftist Organization that was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982. The movement was founded by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. Deeply involved in the Black Power movement, The Black Panthers’ most influential and widely known programs were its armed citizens’ patrols to evaluate behavior of police officers and its Free Breakfast for Children program. However, the group’s political goals were often overshadowed by their confrontational, militant, and sometimes violent tactics against police.

Nelson Mandela
After being held in prison for 27 years for his anti-apartheid activist actions, Nelson Mandela went on to be elected President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. As a political leader, he invited Miriam Makeba to return to South Africa, after she had been exiled from the country for almost thirty years.