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December 2 2001
By Dumile Meintjies

Drag star's ashes laid to rest

His ashes have been buried but family and friends of world renowned singer and drag artist Vuyo Raymond Matinyana - better known by his stage name Miss Thandi - are still devastated that his body was incinerated in a plane crash while being flown back home from Amsterdam, where he died. The MK Airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane carrying Vuyo's body from Amsterdam, where he had lived for the last 12 years, crashed and burst into flames when it attempted to land near Port Harcourt in Nigeria on Tuesday. Vuyo Matinyana, or Miss Thandi, who was born in the poverty-stricken Port Alfred township and slept on the streets of Johannesburg while seeking fame and fortune as a teenager, delighted packed houses in Europe, America and Africa with his unique cabaret show before dying tragically of Hepatitis B in his adopted city on November 14. Now his mother, Lilian Nowarase Tumani, 56, who was battling to come to terms with the untimely death of her son, is reeling from the blow. Struggling to speak, Tumani said: "How will I ever see my child's face again. I wanted to at least touch and feel him but now it will never happen." Vuyo studied at the Fuba Art School in Johannesburg but was rejected by local audiences and led a desperate life of poverty on the streets before obtaining a scholarship from an American-based arts fund called Up The People, which gave him the chance to become an international star. Long-time friend and confident Jan Blom, who travelled all the way from Amsterdam with four other friends to attend the funeral in Miss Thandi's home town, said they were given the terrible news - that only the flight victim's ashes remained - when they arrived to collect the coffin at Port Elizabeth airport. Blom, who was staying with Tumani, said: I am devastated." Speaking in a shaky voice he said: "What can I say man, what can I say. We came here to pledge our last respects to such a wonderful person and now this has to happen." Sadly, Miss Thandi's family, friends and fans had to be content with burying his ashes yesterday, which were collected from Port Elizabeth's airport.

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