Google today is honoring the 81st birthday of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba with a homepage doodle. A figure of a singing Makeba replaces the second “g” in the Google logo.
Makeba, known to many as Mama Africa, was born in 1932 near Johannesburg, South Africa and lived in a segregated black township known as Sophiatown. She started singing in the school choir and became a professional singer in 1954, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.
She gained notoriety – and the attention of Harry Belafonte – with an appearance in the 1959 documentary Come Back, Africa. Makeba relocated to the U.S., but was later denied re-entry to South Africa. The country banned her music in the early 1960s and revoked her passport, forcing Makeba to live in exile. She did not perform in South Africa again until 1991, at the behest of recently released Nelson Mandela.
Makeba married Belafonte protégé Hugh Masekela in 1964. The two divorced two years later, but remained friends and business partners. In 1968, she married activist Stokely Carmichael, which Brittanica said “led to the decline of her career in the United States.”
Makeba died of a heart attack in 2008 while on tour in Italy.
As The Guardian noted in her obituary, Makeba “was one of the most visible and outspoken opponents of South Africa’s apartheid regime from the 1960s till its dismantling in the early 1990s. She was also the anti-apartheid movement’s most audible spokesperson, having entered the top flight of international performers and able to sell out prestigious concert halls with a repertoire that changed little over three decades of musical evolution.”
For more of Google’s doodles, see the slideshow below. Recently, the company has honored Frank Zamboni, the first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, Amelia Earhart, as well as artist Keith Haring, zipper pioneer Gideon Sundback, and even commemorated its own 14th birthday with a birthday cake doodle.
By Chloe Albanesius, PCMag