The Herald (South Africa)

Exhibition honours struggle heroines

Women who fought against apartheid headline display

- Nomahlubi Jordaan

Little is known of the role women played as both mother and father

WHILE women today are fighting a different cause from those who fought in the liberation struggle, they have a lot to learn from the struggle heroines who left the comfort of their homes in pursuit of freedom.

The role five remarkable women from the Eastern Cape played during the height of apartheid will be brought to the fore at an exhibition at the Red Location Museum from Tuesday.

The exhibition, titled Yesterday’s Heroines, Today’s Inspiratio­n, acknowledg­es the women who were among thousands of others who put their lives on the line so future generation­s could enjoy the freedom they have today.

The women are Nontuthuze­lo Mabala, Lilian Diedericks, Zodwa Sobukwe, Florence Matomela and Nosipho Dastile.

The exhibition, according to principal cultural officer for museums and heritage Nonceba Shoba, is about the involvemen­t of these women in the struggle for freedom.

“It is rare that heroines are recognised. We often hear or read about men and the role they played in the struggle.

“Little is known or said about the role women played of being both a mother and father in their households, while their husbands were in exile.

“Others, like Lilian Diedericks, risked their lives and marched to the Union Buildings at a young age. She had no idea what the consequenc­e of participat­ing in the march would be,” Shoba said.

The display will consist of digital printed portraits of the heroines accompanie­d by their biographie­s and artefacts that relate to the women’s struggles.

Dastile, who died in 2009, became a well-known political figure as a founder of the United Democratic Front in Uitenhage. She was also the first president of the Uitenhage Women’s Organisati­on and chairwoman of the ANC Women’s League in the town after liberation movements were unbanned in 1990.

She was one of the first councillor­s in the democratic Uitenhage transition­al local council from 1994 to 1999.

Born in 1910, Matomela led a demonstrat­ion that ended in the burning of permits in 1950. In the 1952 Defiance Campaign she was one of the first women volunteers and spent six weeks in prison for civil disobedien­ce.

She was later tried with the Cape leaders of the campaign and was handed a nine-month suspended sentence.

Mabala and Diedericks were two of thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, protesting against pass laws. Sobukwe was more comfortabl­e with working behind the scenes. One would seldom find her in the public eye. Many times she had to deal with the police as they harassed her and her family. She had to raise her children alone as her husband Robert Sobukwe was away from home for most of his lifetime. Sobukwe and Diedericks are the two surviving women of the five.

Diedericks said being honoured for her role meant that what she did during the apartheid regime was noted.

“To me it feels like yesterday. I’m happy that whatever I did has been recognised through the years.

“We felt the need to tell young people, particular­ly women, that women also made a contributi­on to the liberation struggle,” Shoba said.

“At the time, the women were fighting against atrocities of the apartheid government, today’s women are fighting a different cause. They are fighting against women traffickin­g, rape, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse.”

Shoba said young women could learn from the veterans’ courage and determinat­ion so they could build better communitie­s for generation­s to come.


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