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The shy, little girl from Mzimhlophe

Mara Louw always runs onto the stage. She greets people in Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana, Pedi and English. She wants to be everybody’s friend.

The people clap and whistle. They greet her back. And they always laugh. Mara Louw knows how to make people laugh.

Mara opens her mouth to sing. The people stop laughing. They listen to her rich, strong voice. Mara Louw knows how to sing.

She calls for a man. And she starts dancing. All eyes follow her body. Mara Louw knows how to dance.

Mara loves the stage. She loves making people happy. The shy, little girl from Mzimhlophe has come a long way.

Mara was a quiet child. People and crowds made her nervous. She followed her older sister Nobesuthu everywhere. She felt safe with Nobesuthu.

Mara did not open her mouth often. She did not open her mouth to talk. She only opened her mouth to sing. She loved singing.

When Mara was 11 years old, she joined the church choir. She liked singing in choirs. She felt safe in choirs. She did not feel shy.

But little Mara was a dreamer. She dreamed about great singers like Mirriam Makeba and Mahalia Jack­son. She wanted to sing like them. But these singers didn’t sing in choirs. They stand up and sing ­ alone.

Mara left school. She knew what she wanted. She wanted to work on the stage. She started singing in plays. She sang in a play called ‘Sikalo’. She acted and sang in more plays. She was good.

In 1972 Mara’s sister died suddenly. Nobesuthu was gone and Mara was on her own. She felt sad and lonely. But Mara fought on. Now she wanted to make it – more than ever.

Mara acted and sang in the famous play ‘Meropa’. She travelled to many places with the play. She was doing well. Her dream was coming true. But she still knew she had something to do.

Then her chance came. A hotel in Namibia needed a singer for two weeks. Mara knew her time had come. She took the job.

Mara was scared – really scared. The people at the hotel were fancy. They wore suits and bow-ties. Mara’s knees were knocking. Her hands were sweating.

Mara closed her eyes. And she walked onto the stage· all by herself. She opened her mouth. And her beautiful, rich voice filled the hall. The crowd loved her. The hotel asked her to stay for an extra two weeks.

Mara came home. She was not shy anymore. Now she sings before hundreds, thousands of people. And she sings alone. Nobesuthu must feel very proud .


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