“My answer is: Recognize yourself in others” Nadine Gordimer.
Who are the women you look up to, who are the women that inspire you, that are role models for you? South African women have inspired us towards a healthy and happy view of the ocean of life. Meet women we admire from the past and the present, and keep them close to your heart for the hard days and the happy ones.
Athlete Caster Semenya is South African middle-distance runner and world champion who has sailed through controversy with grace and poise. When the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) subjected her to gender testing, international media leaked the story. The federation explained that the motivation for the test was not suspected cheating but a desire to determine whether she had a "rare medical condition" giving her an unfair competitive advantage. It turns out she did have an advantage – she is indeed a woman and one who believes in herself, to boot. In an interview with South African magazine YOU Semenya stated, "God made me the way I am and I accept myself." She recently won silver for second place in the Women’s 800 metre race in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Irma Stern was well named. Transvaal born, German educated and Cape Town based, this artist determinedly contributed to the fine art world, holding almost 100 solo exhibitions despite early dismissal from the more conservative voices on the local art scene. Her home of four decades in Rondebosch, Cape Town, was converted into an art museum and by March 2011, an Irma Stern original fetched R34 million at Bonham's, London.
Award-winning Antjie Krog is poet, academic and writer whose work protests the violation of human rights under the former apartheid regime. Publishing eloquent anti-establishment works from as young as eighteen, she is best known for her novel, Country Of My Skull, which gives a lyrical and moving account of her work as a journalist during the Truth And Reconciliation Commission which attempted to heal the rifts created between perpetrator and victim during the political regime. The book was later turned into a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche and spread the message of the power of love and hate across the world hot on the trail of her words.
Miriam Makeba was a well-loved singer and civil rights activist whose legacy lives on though her body is laid to rest. She was the first African artist to popularise African music in the United States Of America, and recorded and toured with music greats like Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon and former husband (and legend in his own right), Hugh Masekela. She was exiled for criticising the apartheid system and returned home at the advent of democracy. In addition to singing, she appeared on the hit TV series, The Cosby Show and starred in the musical film, Sarafina! about students involved in the Soweto uprisings. In 1999 she was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and in 2000 she worked closely with Graça Machel-Mandela as well, at the time the South African first lady. Together they supported children suffering from HIV/AIDS, child soldiers, and the physically handicapped. A diversely talented and generous woman, Miriam is fittingly known by the nickname ‘Mama Africa’.
Gceina Mhlope is one of the few female storytellers in South Africa. Spinning tales in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, she encourages children to read through song and story, and works to supply poor South African rural communities with books. Her creativity, charisma and compassion bring the wonder of life into the everyday world.
Charlize Theron (actress), perhaps our greatest export, is an award-winning international actress who has starred in many blockbuster movies including Sweet November, Æon Flux and Young Adult. A beautiful and graceful Benoni girl gone international, it was surprisingly her role as an undereducated, overweight serial killer that won her an Oscar. She remains grounded and genuine despite her fame and accolades, as her regular posts on Facebook attest. She even applied her celebrity to a good cause, giving her name and support to the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project which supports community-engaged organizations that address the key drivers of HIV/AIDs.
Our local natural blonde, Ocean View’s manager, Katrin, shares her heroine. “For me it would be my grandmother Henriette, I adored her for her wisdom and diplomacy. She had the amazing ability to captivate young and old irrespective of where she was or what she did. She left such a big gap in our lives when she passed away ten years ago that my uncle decided to name his new bistro in Germany after her nickname "Nettchen". Let’s hold our heroines close to our hearts and live life to the fullest.
SOURCES AND USEFUL LINKS
Tagged: Antjie Krog, Caster Semenya, Charlize Theron, Gceina Mhlope, Irma Stern, Miriam Makeba, Newsletter August 2012, south african women, women we admire, women who inspire