‘UMOJA’ narrator Hope Ndaba takes his final bow

Self-taught musician and narrator, Penuel Bhekizitha “Hope” Ndaba, has died, leaving a void in one of South Africa’s longest standing theatre productions and most celebrated musical, Africa UMOJA.  

Ndaba, who was the narrator of UMOJA, passed away on December 16 2014 from kidney failure.

He has narrated the story for 15 years; telling the history of South Africa and its evolution of music. The stage production is famously known for telling South Africa’s story through song and dance.

According to a press release by UMOJA, Ndaba, who was 59 years old at the time of his death, had recently returned to South Africa after performing at the opening night of the stage musical in Washington DC last month. The UMOJA – The Sprit of Togetherness cast members are currently on tour in the United States.

The Africa UMOJA company has expressed its condolences in a heartfelt message on Facebook on the passing of Ndaba, who was fondly referred to as “Ubaba Mashona”.

The Umlazi-born performer had been a part of UMOJA right from its beginnings. He worked on a narrative storyline with the creators of the production, Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni. 

Ndaba had a great passion for music. According to the UMOJA website, he has two albums under his belt, but one of the albums, Wavuthi’umlilo (The Fire is Burning) was banned from radio airplay during apartheid because it “aroused the wrath of authorities at that time”.

“Mr Ndaba’s indubitable contribution to the struggle for freedom in South Africa, through his art and his commitment to promoting the South African story uniquely all over the globe will forever be cherished,” said Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador in the US, in a press release.

According to UMOJA producer Patrick Meyer, Ndaba was very instrumental in the success of the production and was the glue that held the cast together.

Penuel Bhekizitha “Hope” Ndaba brought the stage to life, always painting a vivid picture for audiences. (YouTube)

“He brought the spirit of togetherness to the show,” Meyer tells Mail & Guardian. “He was a the most humble and honest person I knew. When he played the acoustic guitar onstage, people all over the world went mad.”  

Ndaba had a way of painting a picture for audiences, a way of transporting audiences all around the world back to the heart of South Africa, through his storytelling. He breathed life into the UMOJA story.

The curtain may have gone down for Ndaba, but the image of him sitting on stage, with the spotlight falling onto his grey hair, while he played his acoustic guitar, will forever be etched in the minds of UMOJA fans.

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Katlego Mkhwanazi
Katlego Mkhwanazi is the Mail & Guardians arts, culture and entertainment content producer. She started her career in magazines, before joining the Mail & Guardian team in 2014. She is an entertainer at heart.

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