As part of the Operation Smile Christmas Campaign, one Woolworths store in Johannesburg, South Africa had planned a performance from the Soweto Gospel Choir on Dec. 7. They were going to do a rendition of James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” but two days before, the world learned of the passing of Nelson Mandela. So they changed the plan.
Instead, the choir chose to sing Johnny Clegg’s “Asimbonanga,” which became the rallying crying for Mandela’s freedom while imprisoned in the ‘80s. Members of the choir took a flash mob approach, and dressed as employees or patrons of the store. And as the first voice rings out, a normal day of grocery shopping suddenly turns into a powerful tribute.
The song title translates to “We have not seen him,” and the lyrics take on an otherworldly context in the celebration of Mandela’s life and death. Clegg, a Brit by birth, formed one of the first racially integrated bands in South Africa, Juluka, in the late ‘60s, and later, Savuka in the ‘80s.
Screengrab via Woolworths SA/YouTube