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Yvonne Chaka Chaka

21 ICONS: Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka


The irrepressible Yvonne Chaka Chaka is spotlighted in the 13th edition of photographer/filmmaker Adrian Steirn’s 21 ICONS South Africa.


Steirn’s inspiration for his portrait of Chaka Chaka is her own refusal to allow a poverty-stricken background to deter her from becoming what she wanted to be. He says, “When I spoke to her she told me that when she was growing up she was too poor to afford a microphone, so she would sing holding a broomstick. Now she sings for kings and queens — it’s a real rags-to-riches story.” A tiara resting atop a piano in the background acts as a reference to her status as “princess of Africa”.


A role model, mentor and agent for change, Chaka Chaka is known and loved throughout Africa for her music, with hits like “Burning Up”, “I’m in Love with a DJ”, “I Cry for Freedom” and “Umqombothi”. Importantly, she has used her fame to campaign for various causes, including literacy, women’s and children’s rights, and transparency in the distribution and monitoring of donor aid.


A goodwill ambassador for both Unicef and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Chaka Chaka is passionate about doing her bit to help eradicate this disease that claims more than 600 000 lives each year, most of them in Africa. She says, “I want to be the voice of the voiceless. I want to be the voice of the people who, with $5, can buy a net and sleep under it but cannot afford to do it. I can go and lobby for them; I can talk to government leaders.”


Always one to take action and get involved, Chaka Chaka in 2006 established a charity, the Princess of Africa Foundation, to complement her work in this field. Among many other projects, it has trained more than 100 women to be community healthcare workers in Limpopo villages where malaria prevalence is high.


The 21 ICONS portrait, signed by Chaka Chaka, will be auctioned at the end of the series and the proceeds donated to her foundation.


Over 21 weeks black and white portraits of 21 South African heroes will be shared as collectable posters in the Sunday Times newspaper, and the accompanying short films will air on SABC3 at 6.57pm, just before the 7pm news. Fans can follow the series online through the digital campaign launched by Quirk Joburg on Facebook, on Twitter or at, where you can find icon profiles and behind the scenes images uploaded weekly. Or you can catch up here.


21 ICONS South Africa is proudly sponsored by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nikon, Deloitte, The Sunday Times, SABC3 and the Department of Arts and Culture. Additional credits go to content-creation company Ginkgo Agency.










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