Brenda Fassie Memorial, Newtown – Johannesburg

by Kojo Pocu
Brenda Fassie Memorial

One of 40 memorial artworks erected by the Sunday Times across the nation to commemorate the country’s 100th birthday and to foster national identity is the bronze statue of Brenda Fassie Memorial outside the Bassline music venue in Newtown, Johannesburg. The top-selling pop diva, known to her fans as Ma Brr, is shown in an unconventional stance in the sculpture, which is a 1570-meter-tall life-size work by artist Angus Taylor. Jose Soberon Villa’s bronze sculptures of Ernest Hemingway holding up a bar and John Lennon sitting on a park seat both served as inspiration for the artist.

Fassie is seated on a barstool with her microphone in front of her (which was broken and fixed in 2012). However, a vacant barstool next to her invites onlookers to sit down and “talk” with her.

The stool serves as a prompt for visitors to engage with the sculpture. Several phrases from Fassie are tiny-letter embossed in bronze. if you stop and take the time to seek them.

The “Madonna of the Townships” was an anti-apartheid Afropop singer named Brenda Fassie. The youngest of nine children, she was born in the Langa township of Cape Town. Brenda helped make money when her father passed away by performing for tourists while her mother played the piano.

Brenda moved to Johannesburg to begin a successful career. She joined the band Joy, then became the leader of Brenda and the Big Dudes, and then created a number of solo records. For the majority of her adult life, she struggled with drug misuse and frequently checked in and out of treatment facilities.

Ms Fassie passed away in a hospital in 2004 at the early age of 39, having overdosed on cocaine and falling into a coma from which she never awoke.

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