Jozi Girl

Brenda Fassie liked to get around the city she lived in, inhabiting Joburg and its environs like a pair of tight-cut jeans.


"At 14, she moved to Joburg, using Soweto as her base."

- "Diva with a messy, hectic life", Sowetan Sunday World, November 10, 2002


"She came at the beginning of 1979 and I enrolled her at Phefeni Secondary School. I thought we would get her education out of the way before embarking on a showiz career." - Koloi Lebona reminiscing about Brenda Fassie

- "Hamba Kahle, SA's favourite", Sowetan, May 14, 2004


"After deciding to abandon school, Brenda ran away from Koloi Lebona's house, and joined theatre and film producer Gibson Kente 'where she was offered a role in Mama and the Load, which was touring the townships then'."

- "Our very own material girl", Citizen, October 24, 2000



"Recalling some of her escapades, Chicco Twala said: 'My daily struggle was also to rescue her from those around her. I literally dragged her screaming and kicking from a dingy R29 per night Hillbrow hotel...'"

- "How I battled to keep Brenda safe", The Star, May 11, 2004


"By 1989, Hillbrow had shed its 1960s white bohemia and 1970s superfly character. Five years after it was declared a 'grey' area, Hillbrow was anything but. A collage of pink, pitch black, yellow and brown people from the Cape to Kuala Lumpur had made it their home. Large residential blocks were taken over by streams of black middle-class people, artists, fashion and hair stylists, fresh-out-of-the-closet black gays and township intellectuals. Although [Brenda] owned a mansion in Fleurhof, MaBrrr also owned an apartment in Century Plaza, then one of Hillbrow's most happening spots.

"Century Plaza was known not only for the musicians who lived there, but also as the epicentre of free expression, style, upward mobility and Jozi's black gays. Jenny Mkhize, now living in Paris, was there at the time: 'It was a combination of 1970s Soweto and designer-obsessed Paris, right in Africa. The exhibitionist gay brigade dripped charm, ruled the style wars, partied hard and ventured deep into the unknown.

"'There was a lot of incestuous bonking going on, y'know? Wine, big guys, cross-gender orgies and more orgies. At the same time, there was a beautiful sisterhood there, shared dreams, bashed dreams... We were all connected by that inexplicable glue: the artists' desire to live freely, as if every day is the last. Lesbians were bedding gay boys, gay boys were stealing each other's partners. There was a boy called Goofy - he allegedly died of AIDS complications in 2002.

"'Through it all, I remember Fassie as the rock goddess: the loudest and most stylish of the bunch. Even if we didn't see eye to eye, I admired how selfless she was. She was many things in one - a very possessive lover and a giving person. At the time, she was seeing my friend Victoria Sihlahla (Poppy), the most beautiful woman in the gang.

"By the mid-Nineties, the Quirinal Hotel in Hillbrow's Kotze Street was not only the scene of degenerate clubbing, but also a meeting spot for the notorious Civil Co-operation Bureau operatives such as Slang van Zyl, Staal Burger, Ferdie Barnard and co - which meant drugs, guns, prostitutes and gore galore."



"But for Fassie, the myth of fast cars, hotel rooms and expensive drugs was shattered in 1994 when she awoke in Hillbrow's seedy Quirinal hotel beside her drug-overdosed lover, Poppie Sihlahla."

- "Brenda the lesbian icon", Mail & Guardian, May 20, 2004


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”