Cape Town interfaith memorial for Desmond Tutu ahead of Saturday funeral

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  • Desmond Tutu
    Desmond Tutu
    South African churchman, politician, archbishop, Nobel Prize winner (1931–2021)

Cape Town paid homage to anti-Apartheid icon Desmond Tutu, with a colourful interfaith musical memorial at City Hall. Attendees paid homage to the Nobel laureate ahead of his funeral Saturday at St George's Cathedral, where he once rallied against South Africa’s white minority rule.

Family members and politicians attended the memorial ceremony Wednesday night for Tutu, to who died peacefully at the age of 90 on Sunday.

The phrase he coined, ‘Rainbow Nation’, when South Africa finally became a democracy, was on full display, with Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and traditional African leaders offering prayers to the city’s first black Anglican Archbishop.

Performances of the South African Youth Choir and guitarist Jonathan Butler, whose music was popular during the fight against white minority rule, were part of the ceremony, which reached a peak when Zolani Mahola performed "Paradise Road", the 1980 chart-topper that became an unofficial anti-Apartheid anthem.

All week, Cape Town's City Hall and the famous Table Mountain are being lit up in purple at night in honour of Tutu's signature purple robes.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis also said the colour also makes reference to the dye police would put in water cannons they often sprayed at pro-democracy protesters in the 1980s, to more easily identify and arrest them.

Also on Wednesday, mourners gathered in the evening for a candlelight prayer ceremony outside Tutu’s home in Soweto.

The homages are part of numerous events across South Africa ahead of his funeral on Saturday at Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral, where he led anti-Apartheid marches and campaigns from the front steps.

On Thursday the coffin carrying his remains will be brought in a procession to the cathedral, where he will lie in state for two days for the public to say their final goodbyes before a private cremation.

His ashes will be interred beneath the floor of the church, where bells have been ringing daily since Monday for 10 minutes in his memory.

(with wires)

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