National Living Treasure and struggle icon – Jonas Gwangwa

The National Heritage Council of South Africa (NHC) was saddened after hearing about the passing of the prolific and renowned legend Jazz musician, Ntate Jonas Gwangwa who died aged 83. The NHC honoured Ntate Gwangwa through one of its annual programmes – Golden Shield Heritage Awards in 2018 as a National Living Treasure, for his role in promoting and advocating the significance and revival of Intangible Cultural Heritage over a number of years.


“The iconic Jazz musician has contributed immensely to the music industry and the struggle for South Africa’s freedom. His music conveyed a spirit of anti-apartheid resistance that gave us hope and courage. The NHC is proud to have celebrated and treasured him as a national living treasure who is now late but his legacy must live on through our cultural heritage,” Ms Louisa Mabe, Acting CEO of the NHC.


Gwangwa was born in 1941 in Soweto. In the 70s the trombonist went into exile after facing oppression by the apartheid government to express his freedom of speech through music. From 1980 to 1990, he was the leader of Amandla, the cultural ensemble of the African National Congress. He also co-composed the theme song for the 1987 movie Cry Freedom, about the anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, for which he received an Oscar nomination.


The NHC would like to send their heartfelt condolences to the Gwangwa family and wish that his legacy continues to live on.



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