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Arts royalty turns out in numbers to send off Bonnie

By Ngqwele Dube
The who is who in the arts fraternity turned out in their numbers yesterday to bid farewell to Iyasa’s longest serving member, Sibonisiwe Sithole (37) who passed away on Thursday morning.

The late Sibonisiwe Sithole
The late Sibonisiwe Sithole

In what turned out to be more of a celebration than dirge, artistes sang, danced and eulogised as they sent her to her final resting place. Arts groups led by Iyasa turned the mourning ground into a stage at home in Matshobana, where they showcased various dances and songs that Bonnie took part in.

Sithole was buried at Athlone Cemetery. Speaking on behalf of artists, Matesu Dube said she remembers Bonnie just as she finished school, being enlisted by Savuka Arts who were heading for a tour in Belgium and she never looked back.

“She was born with her talent and we thank the Sithole family for allowing her to work in the arts sector. I used to call her ‘The Original’, it was a name she used to call herself by but for me its relevance emerged from the fact she stayed at Iyasa all those 20 or so years. Bonnie is the longest serving female member of any group,” he said.

Dube said as directors they work with various people who just disappear and return later after facing challenges and he labelled them pengaudzoke, adding that Bonnie knew what she wanted and stayed forthwith and hopes it will be a lesson for other young artistes.

“Earlier (Sihlangu) Dlodlo (who was the master of ceremony) said that even though Bonnie shined at a show she would never boast but remain humble and let the works that she does speak for itself but appreciation from the audience would always come. Njenge bizo lakhe uSibonisiwe, lathi usibonisile imsebenzi yakhe lokizphatha kwakhe,” he said.

A teary-eyed Sandra Ndebele, who spoke on behalf of Iyasa pioneers, narrated her first trip to Europe where she and Bonnie were called twins because they almost looked alike and where always together.

Ndebele, who choked with emotion said, Bonnie was friendly with everyone, assisting her as she took her first steps in the arts. “She was patient with everyone although she would laugh a lot, she would encourage everyone and I credit her for teaching me to sing as I used to speak because I came from a public speaking background,” she said.

Ndebele called fellow Iyasa pioneers Silethemba Magonya and Loveness Mambakwa to the podium, who also shared their moments with Bonnie. Iyasa founder Nkululeko Dube said Bonnie knew everything about Iyasa and comforted him when the chips were down.

“Bonnie is Iyasa, Iyasa is Sibonisiwe Sithole. The group will never be the same without her. We talked every day and I took her as my first-born daughter. I am so emotional today, if ever there was one who knew Iyasa well it was her. I never saw her angry or heard her complain, but she was quick to give thanks,” she said.

She died on Thursday after a short illness at United Bulawayo Hospitals after being admitted the day before. The Sunday News