- Legendary South African actor Mary Twala's funeral took place on 9 July, but due to Covid-19 regulations, only 50 people were allowed to attend.
- Though Somizi pointed out that his mother would have preferred the small gathering over a large one, I cannot help but feel a certain sadness as I witness the way the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we mourn.
- Despite regulations put into place by government, Mary's funeral was still viewed by over 200 000 people on Somizi's Twitter account alone. Proving that, while we may be physically distant, we can still stand together in difficult times.
Mary Twala had a career that spanned decades - from stage productions to successful film and TV roles. She was a beloved South African star, and it showed in the outpouring of support showered upon her son, Somizi, when news of her death first broke on Saturday 4 July.
In a time before this global pandemic, we would have witnessed hundreds, if not thousands, of fans gather to bid farewell to such an icon. Instead, Mary's funeral, which was held at a venue in Soweto on Thursday 9 July, was an intimate affair.
She would have preferred it this way, though, Somizi pointed out when he took to the stage to speak about his mother.
"I don't feel bad at all about this setup. This is exactly how she would have loved it to be. She would have been very shy cause I know that South Africa would have wanted to celebrate her," he said, perhaps bringing some much-needed comfort to those who wished they could have been there to say their final goodbyes to a South African legend.
There are 12 points under the "attendance of funerals" guidelines set out for alert level three on the government website. Rules put into place to keep us safe. They all make sense. Especially if you have not had to attend a funeral in recent times. But then you witness it play out before you, and something changes.
I logged onto my laptop on Thursday morning to watch the funeral, and that's when it really struck me. The coronavirus pandemic has completely altered the way we mourn. Regulations state that no more than 50 people are allowed to attend a funeral. Masks are to be worn by all those in attendance, and physical distancing is imperative.
The seats at Mary's funeral were set meters apart. The Microphone was wiped down before and after each speaker, and attendees were made aware of sanitising stations ahead of proceedings - a lot of things to take into consideration when you're in such a vulnerable state.
But that did not keep South African's from showing their love. In a time of social distancing, Mary still brought people together. Over 200 000 individuals watched a live stream of the funeral service on Somizi's Twitter account alone. The service was also made available on other platforms.
Photographs of the day were taken through a computer screen. Grant Pitcher set up candles and a bible in a dimly lit room to capture the final farewell from a distance. It brings about a certain kind of sadness.
In a different time, I probably would have been in that room, capturing the emotion as it passed through the church. Feeling the ground vibrate as the crowd who gathered to pay respects lifted their voices to celebrate the life that was. I would have been choking back tears of my own as I caught a glimpse of the sadness in the eyes of those left behind.
For now, though, we gather from our homes, and we mourn in virtual spaces.