Giv­ing back is trendy again

CityPress - - Voices - BRIDGET HIL­TON-BAR­BER news@city­ This se­ries is de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the South­ern Africa Trust

With her hon­eyed mix of Afro-jazz and R&B, Lira is one of South Africa’s most suc­cess­ful mu­si­cians. The ti­tle track of her 2003 de­but al­bum All My Love be­came one of the coun­try’s most fre­quently played sin­gles and, since then, Lira has pro­duced three more mul­ti­plat­inum-sell­ing al­bums, graced the cov­ers of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zines, col­lected nine SA Mu­sic Awards and de­lighted au­di­ences across the globe. De­spite her in­cred­i­ble suc­cess, Lira still be­lieves in the es­sen­tial con­cept of ubuntu and car­ing for the col­lec­tive. Africa, she says, is in­spir­ing the world. In 2010, you were part of the 92nd birth­day cel­e­bra­tion of for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela. Tele­cast in 3-D di­rectly to Man­dela him­self, your per­for­mance with the Soweto Spir­i­tual Singers of Some­thing In­side So Strong was one of the most soulful in your ca­reer. How do you re­flect on that now, and the legacy that Man­dela left?

The more I per­form this song, the more I un­der­stand why Nel­son Man­dela liked it so much. I see how it con­nects us as hu­man be­ings: my au­di­ence, my band and my­self. I have clar­ity on just how awe­some the hu­man spirit is. I recog­nise my own abil­ity to pos­i­tively in­flu­ence peo­ple through what I do and the fact that they pos­i­tively in­flu­ence me as well. I see great­ness within all of us, the same that we have ad­mired in Man­dela. I re­alise that he was a man do­ing his best to up­hold what he felt to be true, and I see that we too, in our daily ef­forts, can and are do­ing the same. In May 2012, you ap­peared in Vogue’s Re­brand­ing africa is­sue fea­tur­ing UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral wan Ki-moon on the cover. You said then: ‘We’re a young democ­racy, and we’re ac­cus­tomed to an image of africa as a place that ex­pects out­side help. We must in­stead take stock of our sit­u­a­tion, be­come au­tonomous; find our iden­tity and in­de­pen­dence.’ Do you think the global image of africa is chang­ing? Yes! It ab­so­lutely is. I see it in our fashion and mu­sic in­dus­tries. The world is look­ing to Africa for in­spi­ra­tion. These are ex­cit­ing times. Though we still have much to do, much progress has been made. We are pro­duc­ing amaz­ing Africans who are im­pact­ing the world and lift­ing the image of Africa. Is there a new way of giv­ing back among suc­cess­ful africans? How do we cre­ate a cul­ture of giv­ing?

I can an­swer that ques­tion from a per­sonal per­spec­tive. Ed­u­ca­tion makes sense to me as a long-term so­lu­tion to cre­at­ing change and al­le­vi­at­ing poverty. Char­ity some­times ad­dresses symp­toms rather than the core is­sues, although it is nec­es­sary to pro­vide relief. Giv­ing back goes back to the prin­ci­ple of ubuntu. We were al­ways com­mu­nity or group­cen­tric peo­ple. It is im­por­tant that when we man­age to el­e­vate our own lives, we go back into the ar­eas we came from and find peo­ple we can help so that there are more of us be­ing el­e­vated. This will in­evitably lift the whole coun­try and ul­ti­mately the con­ti­nent. We can only achieve this if we work to­gether. The trick is to con­sider what you can do with what you have. This is what I’m do­ing with the Change4ever cam­paign. We are mak­ing ‘giv­ing back’ trendy again, and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to find unique and creative ways to make a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­ni­ties. What is your most in­spir­ing phil­an­thropic project?

The Stu­dent Spon­sor­ship Pro­gramme is one of my favourites. It finds promis­ing and gifted stu­dents in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, and spon­sors their ed­u­ca­tion in pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions across the world. Each young­ster is as­signed a men­tor who is of­ten a grad­u­ate from the pro­gramme. I ab­so­lutely love it. What mu­si­cians in­spire you in the ways they give back?

Yvonne Chaka Chaka does a lot of char­ity work, which sees her trav­el­ling the world and speak­ing on global plat­forms about malaria. Bo­nang Matheba re­cently pub­li­cised her on­line store, which she uses to sell her used glam­orous dresses for char­ity. I do most of my giv­ing pri­vately, but this made me re­alise that, if our mis­sion is to make giv­ing trendy, some­times it is nec­es­sary to pub­li­cise and show oth­ers how to do it. What is your mes­sage from africa to the world? I was asked re­cently by an in­ter­viewer in Amer­ica: ‘What do you think Africa can teach the world?’ My an­swer was that we have not in­vented ar­chi­tec­ture, fancy ma­chin­ery or ad­vanced weapons, but we re­mind the world of the virtues that con­nect us as hu­man be­ings, virtues such as hu­mil­ity, hu­man­ity

and love.

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