Sunday Times

Strik­ing poses for women worth im­i­tat­ing

- By REA KHOABANE Belgium · Austria · Angola · Cuba · Miriam Makeba · Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Belarus · Iceland · Miriam Hopkins · Mozambique · Sophia University · Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu · Esther Mahalangu · Bessie Emery Head · Ruth First · Malaika

If you could be recre­ated as an icon, who would you be? I would come back as my aunt, Pu­leng “Bingi” Khoabane, who went into ex­ile at the age of 14, re­ceived mil­i­tary train­ing in An­gola and was later sent to Cuba. I did not know her well; this girl who be­came a soldier to lib­er­ate her coun­try lived too short a life, but at least she re­turned to SA and died free.

There are other icons, such as Joyce Sikhakhane, Char­lotte Max­eke, Al­bertina Sisulu, Es­ther Mahlangu, Bessie Head, Miriam Makeba and Ruth First. These are some of the women whose im­ages have been recre­ated in an on­line photo se­ries en­ti­tled “Icons Re­vis­ited”.

Young thought lead­ers have been pho­tographed to echo fa­mous por­traits of women who made their mark in arts and cul­ture, pol­i­tics, health care and other sec­tors. Cre­ated by Vuyo Dlamini as a project for the Na­tional In­sti­tute for the Hu­man­i­ties and So­cial Sci­ences, the photo se­ries is an on­go­ing project that will even­tu­ally be made into a cof­fee-ta­ble book.

The in­ten­tion, says Dlamini, is to “tell sto­ries of young women who are do­ing ex­cel­lent work and are not of­ten cel­e­brated or fea­tured on main­stream me­dia plat­forms.

“They don’t have thou­sands of so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers; that’s not what it’s about. They are ac­tivists, en­trepreneur­s, artists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who are pur­su­ing their be­liefs and pas­sions for the bet­ter­ment of our world rather than for recog­ni­tion.

“Our aim in fea­tur­ing them is to il­lu­mi­nate their work. At the same time, the pho­tos memo­ri­alise icons who paved the way for women in dif­fer­ent spheres of South African life.”

The women in the fa­mous por­traits mostly also worked be­hind the scenes. Few were cel­e­brated for their work dur­ing their life­time.

Broad­cast jour­nal­ist Andisa Ndlovu, pho­tographed in the pose of Miriam Makeba, said she was moved by the con­cept but did not im­me­di­ately agree to be part of it.

“I felt like she was way too big and I didn’t de­serve to por­tray her, that some­one ‘big­ger’ should do it. But then I thought maybe she would want a girl like me to do it. I see in my­self the lit­tle Xhosa girl in her, the young woman driven by her con­vic­tions.”

Ndlovu first heard of Makeba in grade 8, when her so­cial sci­ences teacher was look­ing at ways in which art can be used to in­flu­ence so­ci­ety.

“We were asked to pick a mu­si­cian on a list given to us, lis­ten to a song of theirs pro­vided by our teacher and an­a­lyse the lyrics. My group chose Makeba and we heard her song, A Luta

Con­tinua. I read more about her and was in­trigued by her strength.”

Makeba, who died in 2008, spent three decades in ex­ile.

“She was an ac­tivist be­fore she was a mu­si­cian,” says Ndlovu. “Her mu­sic gave a voice to her ac­tivism. She used her art as a plat­form for her pol­i­tics and her legacy lives be­yond just her mu­sic.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist Cather­ine Con­stan­tinides was pho­tographed in the pose of Ruth First, the South African anti-apartheid ac­tivist who was killed by a par­cel bomb in Mozam­bique, where she worked in ex­ile.

“As I stepped into the shoes and life of an iconic South African that played such an im­mense role in our his­tory, I was re­minded of the strength and courage that women played dur­ing the dark­est days of the apartheid strug­gle,” says Con­stan­tinides.

“This project has al­lowed me to take a bet­ter look at the life and times of Ruth First. I was moved by her fight, her willpower and the man­ner in which her legacy lived on through what she achieved.

“We are of­ten re­minded of the strug­gle icons, our free­dom fighters and the he­roes of our his­tory, but these women were the cru­cial cogs that al­lowed men in the front line to con­tinue fight­ing.”

Pho­tog­ra­pher Dlamini posed her­self as Sophia de Bruyn, ac­tivist and trade union­ist who was the first re­cip­i­ent of the Women’s Award for ex­cep­tional na­tional ser­vice and is the last liv­ing leader of the Women’s March. Com­mu­nity lead­er­ship cham­pion Busi Mkhum­buzi ap­pears as stu­dent ac­tivist Joyce Sikhakhane; youth ac­tivist Amonge Sinx­oto is Char­lotte Max­eke; writer Malaika Mahlatsi is Al­bertina Sisulu; en­gi­neer­ing in­no­va­tor Nneile Nkholise is Es­ther Mahlangu and youth em­ploy­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tor Whit­ney Ja­cobs is Bessie Head.

‘I felt like she was way too big … but I see in my­self the lit­tle Xhosa girl in her’ Andisa Ndlovu on Miriam Makeba

 ??  ?? Nneile Nkholise as Es­ther Mahlangu (1935-)
Nneile Nkholise as Es­ther Mahlangu (1935-)
 ??  ?? Whit­ney Ja­cobs as Bessie Head (1937-1986)
Whit­ney Ja­cobs as Bessie Head (1937-1986)
 ??  ?? Cather­ine Con­stan­tinides as Ruth First (1925-1982)
Cather­ine Con­stan­tinides as Ruth First (1925-1982)
 ??  ?? Andisa Ndlovu as Miriam Makeba (1932-2008)
Andisa Ndlovu as Miriam Makeba (1932-2008)
 ??  ?? Amonge Sinx­oto as Char­lotte Max­eke (1874-1939)
Amonge Sinx­oto as Char­lotte Max­eke (1874-1939)
 ??  ?? Malaika Mahlatsi as Al­bertina Sisulu (1918-2011)
Malaika Mahlatsi as Al­bertina Sisulu (1918-2011)
 ??  ??

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