Historic Mandela Anniversary Marked With Washington Gala

The Washington Performing Arts Society’s annual gala featured a performance by Vusi Mahlasela, who is known as “the Voice” of South Africa.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

This past weekend was the 20th anniversary of the late Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as the president of South Africa. Here in Washington the occasion was marked at the the Washington Performing Arts Society’s annual gala with a performance by a man who was there on the historic occasion, Vusi Mahlasela. Mahlasela, a singer who is known as “the Voice” of South Africa, also performed at the beloved statesman’s 90th-birthday celebration.

The gala was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, and the evening had a South African theme throughout. South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool addressed the main point: “It was on this day 20 years ago in 1994 that Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of a free and united South Africa. There is no tribute that Madiba would value more than the tribute of knowing that on this day 20 years later exactly, 600 of Washington’s finest people, the finest Americans that this country has, gathered under the banner of the Washington performing arts to pay tribute to him and his legacy in music, art, and culture.”

Rasool and his wife, Rosieda Shabodien, were the diplomatic chairs of the evening, which, in addition to Mahlasela’s headlining performance, also included appearances by the dancers from Step Afrika! and the WPAS Children of the Gospel Choir. The dancing was not limited to the performers, however. Halfway through Mahlasela’s lively concert, the guests in their black tie and evening gowns filled the dance floor. A live auction raised more than $125,000 for the WPAS production and education programs.

Nelson Mandela died December 5 at the age of 95.

The WPAS Children of the Gospel Choir performing at the organization's gala.