The late Lundi Tyhamara
Gospel star Lundi Tyhamara, who at times identified as gay, was remembered in an emotional memorial service at Soweto’s Grace Bible Church – the site of a recent anti-gay sermon.
Tuesday’s commemoration of Tyhamara’s life and talents was attended by celebrities, public figures and friends and family of the 38-year-old musician, who passed away last week from stomach TB and a liver complication.
Tyhamara first came out as gay to City Press over ten years ago – a brave revelation to make in the traditionally conservative gospel music world. He went on to at times also claim to be heterosexual, and is survived by two children.
In addition to his widely reported struggles with substance abuse, the singer was often the subject of speculation about his sexuality. Speaking to Move magazine in August last year (for an article titled, The bad boys of gospel) Tyhamara was asked to address the rumours.
“Whether I am gay or straight is not for anyone to know. I’m too old to talk about such things in public. I have no business declaring my sexuality to anyone,” he said.
After his death, Tyhamara’s former manager, Tshepo Nzimande, praised the star. “He is the first gospel artist to come out and say, I am gay, I am an alcoholic and a drug addict and his fans respected him for that,” Nzimande told Drum.
Speaking at the memorial, gospel artist Deborah Fraser acknowledged the LGBT community. “I also love and appreciate how supportive the gay and lesbian community has been to Lundi,” she said. “He was really sick. I cooked for him and fed him when he was in hospital. He knew his race was complete.”
Right up to his death, Tyhamara, who sold over 3 million albums, continued to be subjected to gossip mongering, including rumours that he had been dating a married man and homophobic claims that he had passed away from anal cancer due to his sexuality.
Sadly, the Grace Bible Church, where the grand public event took place in his honour, is unlikely to have been able to offer Tyhamara true comfort or validity as a gay or bisexual man.
The church has been in the headlines over the past week and a half thanks to a guest sermon by Ghanaian evangelist Dag Heward-Mills, who preached that homosexuality is unnatural.
Following a media furore, the church’s head, Bishop Mosa Sono, went on to state this past Sunday that while gay people are welcome, their relationships and sexual life could not be tolerated. He proclaimed that marriage between a man and a woman is “the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations”.
While the church enjoyed the company of the whos who to eulogize the star on Tuesday, its hypocritical stance only perpetuates self-loathing and indignity among those struggling with their sexuality. Instead of offering a true home for LGBT people, the Grace Bible Church’s rigid and outdated beliefs will continue to hurt, demean and stigmatise our community.
Tyhamara will be laid to rest in Worcester, his home town, in Cape Town on the weekend. May he rest in peace.