June 10, 2012
JOHNNY CLEGG, if music is the food of love, yours is a veritable banquet. You infuse it with the rhythms of Africa and the melodies of the West to create a unique blend that at once sustains and empowers. Like all great art, it transcends difference to express the boundless spirit of our rainbow world.
Born in England, you grew up in southern Africa, a "white Zulu" with a heart as big as the continent and a belief in justice fired by your awareness from a young age of senseless inequality. In the dark days of apartheid, when those who would separate us sought to silence you, your vibrant music fed the soul of the movement to end such separation.
Bans, raids, and arrests never stopped you from giving voice to the people, decrying the hardships inflicted on them, and celebrating their proud cultures. Today, in a better time, your songs unite the crowds who throng the rugby stadiums and pack the public arenas of your beloved South Africa and echo around the world.
With your bands Juluka and then Savuka, and as a solo artist, you have earned wide international acclaim. You are South Africa's "living treasure," Swaziland's "royal minstrel" and a French Knight of Arts and Letters. And, as an accomplished anthropologist, you have written seminal papers on Zulu music and dance and lectured at home and abroad. On your visits to Dartmouth, you showed us that your teaching is as inspiring as your music.
You once said the hardest lesson you ever learned was recognizing opportunities. You learned that lesson well. With the company African Sky, you saw the opportunity both to protect our planet and put people to work by recycling e-waste. You use music and song to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and highlight the need for prevention.
Johnny, for the decades you spent bringing unity where there was division and preserving your country's heritage, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.
President Jim Yong Kim
Last Updated: 8/17/12