The Hugh Masekela Memorial Pavilion Unveiled

The Hugh Masekela Memorial Pavilion has been unveiled at his gravesite at West Park cemetery, Johannesburg. The memorial pavilion was designed by world renowned architect Sir David Adjaye. It is based on the architectural tradition from various African countries and affirms the burial place as a welcoming space to commune with the departed.

Rooted in the Pan African aesthetic, it resonates with Masekela’s own ethos. Sir David Adjaye has created a welcoming space, a place for reflection, with light forever filtering through the foliage which is mimicked by the canopy solidly balanced on diversely shaped trunks.

Says Sir David Adjaye:

“My approach to designing monuments and memorials, what I provocatively termed Making Memory, for my exhibition at the Design Museum in London, is born of a desire to show that architecture like music and art, reflects our collective consciousness. This pavilion or lekgotla designed for Bra Hugh is symbolic of his passion and desire to see us come together to advance African consciousness. To see us leverage our heritage and wisdom as cultural capital to the benefit of our people and communities.”

Hugh Maekela Memorial Pavilion

The Pavalion features a statement that serves as a tribute from his family, and reads:

“His legacy is complex and has no boundaries. The ripples of his life force are yet creating new facets of his nature. Those will remain unchained, causing ever novel vistas. Only change and the tantalizing promise of a future were his muse.

He was not afraid, and his rage and daring was searing, but his love for family, friends, children, women and Africa is the unifying theme of his opus. Ultimately it is the human species in all its diversity that is his family. Only music is god and this deity is neither fixed nor petrified in genre. He laughed a lot and his humour is scattered everywhere. And we will always love him”.

The process of designing and building the pavilion was initiated by Ravi Naidoo of the Design Indaba Trust, coordinating Sir David Adjaye’s trips to South Africa, for meetings with the family, Fasian Architectural Labs, who are the local contractors for the Adjaye Associates, and last, but not least: Johannesburg City Parks whose cooperation and active assistance afforded the project an early start and an incredibly speedy completion.

Explaining the Design Indaba Trust’s role, Naidoo explains: “Bra Hugh was a dear friend and a huge supporter of the Design Indaba platform. Since his passing, we’ve sought to explore ways to honour him, and celebrate his colossal legacy. Last year, we were able to dedicate the Hugh Masekela gallery, at Zeitz MOCAA, Africa’s first museum of contemporary art.

This year, we commissioned Sir David Adjaye, to design a poetic homage to Bra Hugh, in the form of a pavilion. We wanted a space to pause, reflect, meditate and honour Bra Hugh’s spirit, and creative legacy.”

“This Memorial is a testimony not only of their sincerity but of the possibility of deeper ties among the people of Africa. It is as Hugh would have wanted it, for the coming generations, to come here, pause and say, ‘Africa lives, and it matters.”

Ambassador Barbara Masekela comments: “It was important to us, as the Masekela family, that the structure reflected Hugh’s essence. He was warm, loving and generous to a fault, and had the gift of connecting effortlessly and joyously with people. The pavilion is a place where those who loved him, and his music can connect with him in a profoundly peaceful setting – we are grateful to all who had a hand in realizing this memorial, and deeply thankful to have loved and been loved by this incredible soul.”

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