African Queen

Although her keenest fans occupied home turf, Brenda Fassie's music also enjoyed overwhelming popularity across the rest of the African continent.

"Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi met Fassie... when he was a guest at her show in the West African country of Burkina Faso. [Brenda remembered] that her magical meeting started when she was woken at 10.30pm by armed soldiers banging on her door. 'I was scared because I thought I had done something wrong. Two of the soldiers came in, saluted and said they had been told by Gaddafi to come and fetch me. I was stunned.' The soldiers gave her 15 minutes to dress. In keeping with her bad girl image, Fassie chose a pair of gold and white pants with thigh-high slits and a matching low-cut gold and black top, a gold and black turban and white high-heeled sandals. With sirens wailing, a convoy of more than 10 luxury vehicles whisked her through the streets of the capital, Ougadougou. Fassie was given a standing ovation when she arrived at Gaddafi's house, where other African musicians had gathered for an audience with the charismatic president. 'I stood at the entrance of the hall thinking, "If only South Africa could see me now". I was a real queen. We were kept waiting for 45 minutes, but I would have waited 29 hours for that man. He is like another Nelson Mandela.' The president finally arrived and went down the line shaking hands. But when he reached South Africa's pop queen, he opened his arms. Fassie dashed forward and started sobbing on his shoulder. As if the two minute-long hug and kiss on the cheek were not enough, Gaddafi took off his ruby and diamond ring and slipped it onto Fassie's finger. 'You must come to Libya and perform for me and my people...'"

-"Gaddafi goes gaga for Brenda", Sunday Times, July 16, 2000


"The East African Standard in Nairobi, Kenya, reported on Africa's 'great loss', while members of the Botswana entertainment industry poured out their sorrow at her death.

"A Kenyan fan, John Kamau from Nairobi, posted a website notice saying: 'Brenda, thank you for all the music you gave us, which we know will always live on. This is loss not only to our continent, but to the whole world of music. RIP.'"

- "Tributes pour in from all over the world for our pop diva", City Press, May 16, 2004


"Several thousand Lusaka music lovers thronged the Independence Stadium to see South African musicians Brenda Fassie and the reggae maestro Jumbo [perform] during the observation of the Africa Freedom Day to raise millions for drought-stricken Zambia."

- "Brenda, Jumbo woo Lusaka music lovers", Citizen, May 27, 1992


"Fassie won the ultimate accolades - Best Female Artist in Africa at the 1999 Kora All Africa Music Awards."

- "Brenda's simply the best in the whole of Africa!", Sunday World, September 5, 1999


"Brenda Fassie was invited to sing at the 'historic opening' of the stadium where the All-Africa Games [were] staged in October (of 2003). 'This is the moment I have been waiting for and I am raring to go.'"

- "Brenda features at stadium bash", Sowetan, April 8, 2003


back to the Brenda Fassie memorial page

"I like to create controversy. I'm going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible."
Brenda Fassie
Brenda Fassie, 1984
Picture: Joe Sefale © Sunday Times


Newspaper sources: An exercise in image-making

In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about different images that the media communicate. They will see that one person can be represented in many different ways, or that one person has different sides. Brenda Fassie was a very complex person.

Lesson page
You′ll need the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader to view these lesson plans. Download it here.
Archive Photo Gallery
MaBrrr channels Madonna and other great divas.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Watch the Brenda sculpture develop from clay mould to glowing likeness of the queen of African pop.
Orbituary audio archive
Listen to SAfm/Metro FM’s obituary of Brenda, broadcast on May 10, 2004 (5’42").
Go on a 360° virtual tour of the Brenda Fassie memorial, located at Bassline, in the Newtown precinct of Johannesburg.
Madiba remembers Princess Brenda
Madiba describes his surprise when he heard Princess Brenda coming down the stairs in his house
Zola Budd Track
The Sunday Times Heritage Project’s first memorial is to Brenda Fassie, a woman variously described as the Queen of African pop and the Madonna of the Townships
Brenda Fassie and Zola Budd
MaBrrr struts her stuff and takes on taxi drivers with her big hit, “Zola Budd”