Shannon Elizabeth shared a touching tribute to Johnny Clegg, the South African anti-apartheid musician who passed away Wednesday at the age of 66.
In an Instagram post, Shannon described Clegg as “an icon in Africa” and wrote that some of her biggest memories in Africa include getting to know the musician.
Clegg, who was born in England but spent most of his childhood split between Israel and Africa, died Wednesday after a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Throughout Clegg’s childhood, he regularly encountered blacks, through exposure to migrant workers, and took an interest in their dance and music, according to his biography from the University of Witwatersrand. At the time, it was all but unthinkable for whites and blacks in Africa to mix, but Clegg wasn’t going to let the cultural and legal ideals of segregation, prevalent at the time, to interfere with his friendships or with his music.
That would lead to him frequently getting into trouble with the law and getting arrested multiple times for trespassing on government property while protesting with his black friends and colleagues. That hatred for apartheid would, in turn, form his musical career and his advocacy for the rest of his life.
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Such a sad day. One of my biggest memories so far in Africa has been getting to know @johnnyclegg ‘s music. I was lucky enough to be at this show, one of his last concerts. He is an icon in Africa. His power to entertain and to unite people with his music is just incredible. My heart goes out to @jesseclegg his family, every South African and everyone touched by his music. RIP Johnny Clegg xxx asimbonanga
As for Shannon Elizabeth, though she was born in the United States (as Shannon Elizabeth Fadal, in Houston, in 1973), she has been involved in Africa and African politics for years.
As an animal lover and a vegan, it was Africa’s animals that brought the American actress to South Africa, as Peter Borchert writes on the website Animal Avengers.
As Shannon herself says of her journey, “I was determined to get involved, personally, and to make an active contribution. But to do so, and to do it right, I felt I had to come to Africa to learn first-hand what was happening.”
That was in 2015; since that time, she has lived in Capetown, South Africa, where she has not only became an advocate for South Africa’s animals but for helping the country’s tribespeople with water, solar power, and other similar projects.
It’s not clear how, why, when, or where Shannon and Johnny struck up their friendship. But by 2017, according to the Facebook post below, she had taken an interest in his music.
In her Instagram tribute to Clegg, she concluded with the word “Asimbonanga.” The Zulu word roughly translates to “We haven’t seen him.” That’s the title of a Johnny Clegg song about South African rights pioneer Nelson Mandela, which later became something of an anti-apartheid anthem. Here, Shannon uses it to describe her beautiful friendship with the late singer.