R&B singer Tyrese Gibson was so moved by the life of a 125-year-old Namibian grandmother that he shelled out more than US$4,000 for her funeral and wrote a song in her honor.
“My immediate thought was, ‘There are five of my lifetimes that she has been around,”‘ he said Monday. “I wish she could have let me in on some of her stories before she passed away.”
The 25-year-old singer is in Africa for the first time for his role in a remake of the 1965 film “Flight of the Phoenix.”
Tyrese plays Dennis Quaid’s co-pilot in the action adventure about air crash survivors trying to build a new plane from the wreckage.
Tyrese heard about Anna Visser, dubbed “Namibia’s oldest granny,” from local press reports.
Visser lived through both the German and South African occupations of this southern African country, including spending time in a German concentration camp. She died Thursday.
Her story inspired Tyrese to write the song “Chapter 126,” about Africa’s quest for freedom, with fellow cast member Sticky Fingaz, a former member of rap supergroup Onyx who plays a passenger on the plane.
On Monday, Tyrese played the song for cast and crew members on his car stereo, but he said he wasn’t sure whether he would release it commercially.
When Tyrese heard Visser’s family couldn’t afford to pay for her funeral, he gave them 30,000 Namibian dollars (US$4,250) to buy three cows and 10 goats to feed the mourners and to pay for the most expensive headstone they could find. Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab helped with the arrangements.
Tyrese was unable to attend Saturday’s funeral because of filming obligations, but he was represented by childhood friend Damien Marzehe from Compton, California.