Five minutes with Mam'Abigail Kubeka on Freedom Day

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Abigail Kubeka at the First Annual Basadi In Music Awards Official Launch.
Abigail Kubeka at the First Annual Basadi In Music Awards Official Launch.
Oupa Bopape

She’s 82 and still working. She’s seen South Africa at its best and worst, from the apartheid era days to the joys of the implementation of democracy to today – a time when artists are fighting tooth and nail for their dues.

Mam’Abigail Kubeka is a seasoned thespian, songwriter, musical arranger, and singer. With everything that she’s done, she should be sitting and enjoying her retirement.

But with decades of work under her belt, she can’t afford to retire, especially after the two difficult years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She’s got a role as Zondiwe Mogale on SABC 1’s soapie Generations: The Legacy. We catch up with her just ahead of Freedom Day.

Mam’Abigai says even though she is struggling, she is grateful that she can wake up every day and do what she loves at her age.

The Love Train hitmaker says acting was always in her and because she is a singer, acting comes out in her singing because a singer presents a song to the audience and it is in that deliverance that the acting comes through.

“I would firstly like to say no one gave me this talent, but God has given me this talent. I am doing what God has given me where I have to do it and where it is possible. I have always had these gifts and I still have them. I am thankful to the team at Generations: The Legacy that is patient with me as an 82-year-old who needs to show up at work every day and do what I am paid to do. ”

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The voiceover artist says she is still putting her best foot forward because of her upbringing, her love and dedication to the display of the craft. She says she doesn’t have a choice but to work hard even though her health sometimes deteriorates, because she needs to maintain her health and be able to afford some medication.

“It will take time for us South Africans to have freedom, it is not yet Uhuru. We still need to figure out the know-how of doing it because we are struggling with that part. During the apartheid we were used to being called “loafers” who “won't work”, at least now we are called “legends” and that is the only thing that changed since we got into democracy as a country,” she laughs.

“I have always been a free-spirited person, my spirit has always been free, it is my mind that has never been free and it is still not free.

“There has to be law and order that goes hand in hand with freedom. One can have freedom but they need law and order. The key is to also know when to apply the law and how it works as well as maintaining the order so that one day we can all enjoy the freedom that we are yearning for.”

Mam’ Abigail says when she is not shooting on Freedom Day, she usually prepares pap n vleis and enjoys it with her family and thank God.

“I do not want to focus on other stuff because may I am expecting a lot when it comes to freedom in our country.”

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As one of the legends who are part of the Living Legend Projects, she says the project hasn’t done much for them except from acknowledging that they are living legends.

 “When it comes to the Living Legends program, I don’t know whether it helps us or not, they have their way of doing things. I am struggling and I am used to struggling during the times of apartheid, and it is so bad that a person who claims to honour us and calls us legends is not doing that,” she says.  

During the hardest times of the pandemic when gigs were scarce for every artist and they couldn’t perform, it was already hard for the people who paved the way for the young artists. They were not getting booked because they do not have a hit song out.

“When it comes to performances it is very quiet, plus Covid contributed to that and the promoters want to book people who have hit records. I do not have a hit record, I am a hit myself, I trust myself when I have to do something, it doesn’t matter when or how I do it, I always give my best,” she says.

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