Little did I know when I had the pleasure of interviewing Raymond Matinyana
for a feature article in Gay News, just a few month later I would be writing
A much loved and colourful figure in Amsterdam's gay and cultural scene, Raymond
passed away on Wednesday 14th November 2001 in hospital Amsterdam. He suffered
from acute liver failure which was caused by hepatitis B. He was 32.
Known to many as Miss Thandi, Raymond was a survivor and his life was a remarkable
success story. Growing up poor, black and gay in the township of a violently
apartheid South Africa, Raymond somehow managed to nurture and achieve his dream
of becoming an international entertainer.
Kind of heart and generous in spirit, it became one of his passions to give
something back to the community from which he came. Together with his lover
of four and a half years, Jan, he set up the foundation Afro Vibes with the
goal of sponsoring needy children in South Africa. Raymond was devoted to his
community, his ideals transcended barriers which he expressed through his music
and remarkable performances.
A favourite at the Amsterdam drag club Lellebel where Miss Thandi was a regular
performer, Raymond was hard at work on his first commercial CD. Fittingly, the
last night of his life was spent on stage singing with his beloved Afro Vibes
As dramatic as he was in life, his death was a double tragedy. At the end of
November the plane carrying his body to South Africa for his scheduled burial
December 1st in his home town of Port Alfred, crashed in Nigeria. The body was
lost in the wreckage.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
In any interview, much more is said than can ever be printed. In honour of Raymond
I have gone back and found some comments cut from the final text of his feature
article. It is Raymond in his own words, his last interview:
"I enjoyed my childhood because I grew up in a community. I never had a wish
of being different to who I was then. The more you grow up the more you learn
about yourself and the situation [apartheid]. Eventually there were the uprisings
and then you learn more about where you should be and where you were not at.
I think every child that grew up in my time was in some way involved in politics."
"For me the foundation [Afro Vibes] is my way of contributing, and fulfilling
the happiness I did not have as a child in South Africa. So in a way I'm living
it through other young people. I mean today I have a piano in the house and
I can't even play and I'm thinking [laughs]: 'Probably if I was white I might
have gone to a better school that had a piano!' I'm a singer and I could have
just stayed home and played all the time. Here it is my partner who plays the
piano so beautifully. He didn't even have to go to school to learn piano!"
"What I'm trying to say is that we help young people with no hope and try and
fulfill their dreams with education. The foundation is to inspire other people.
If there is one child that makes it, you know they will spread the word. Not
to us, to the people. There might be someone who says: 'Oh wow, I wish I could
do the same.' It is just to inspire them, you can't help it."
Africa has such a big problem education-wise. There are a lot of youth people
who finish high school and are just sitting at home with no idea of where to
go. There is no scholarships, it's not like in Holland where when you finish
high school there is money there that you can apply for. I'm here and things
are available here and people are giving so why be selfish? I mean I will always
be South African no matter where I am at, I cannot forget where I come from."
"I didn't come to Holland to make the world perfect. I came here for myself
to give and share with the Dutch people as much as I can whilst I can."
Many people have lost a friend, the music world has lost a voice, South Africa
has lost a brilliant point of light and Amsterdam has lost the finest ambassador
for South African culture it could ever hope to have. May he rest in peace.
The Matinyana Fund will continue in memory of Raymond. Anyone interested
in learning more about the foundation or in donating to a Matinyana Fund scholarship
fund in honour of Raymond can find more information at www.matinyanafund.org.za.