THE BLOG
04/04/2018 12:08 SAST | Updated 04/04/2018 13:15 SAST

Madikizela-Mandela's Contribution To Feminism Is Important

Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela existed. She did. And I can be better because she did.

Beeld/ Archive

Mama Winnie has left her legacy in capable hands.

She has left us a wealth of lessons in how she lived her life, how she gave her life to the struggle, how she stood up to the bullies of the crushing apartheid system which threatened to silence not only her, but the voices of many of those who fought in the liberation struggle.

I wrote some time ago about how we have been standing on the strength of black women for centuries - that often, this very strength has been the mbokodo which has broken women's backs because of its burdensome weight.

Gallo Images via Getty Images
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during her exile in Brandfort in 1977. (

Mam'Winnie lived through a time where the erasure of the black women's contribution to the struggle was brushed aside and erased, which is why it has been great in the past few days seeing how black women have pulled through, holding an important space for Mama Winnie's memory - calling for the honest excavation of the work which she has contributed to society.

This, of course, is not to say that she was without fault, but to purposefully want to paint a posthumous picture of a just how horrible she was - using a black boy which many had possibly not even know until yesterday (and didn't even care for) - is a bit of a reach. Wanting to "expose" her shortcomings as a major talking point is pretty basic.

This is why the importance of preserving and writing our histories into being is important – we need to ensure that our children and their children have an undistorted image of who the women are who agitated for them to hold agency in the spaces they will occupy. And this image need not be rosy - it just needs to be honest. It is possible to both critique and give credit to someone for their contribution - their body of work to the conversation.

There is something deeply affirming about reading the stories of black women and seeing yourself through watching how they have navigated life.

Mam'Winnie's life was a life well lived, a life that emphasised that women need to stand together and work towards ensuring our collective efforts towards dismantling the crippling patriarchy become realised – and this sentiment is shared in her take on why patriarchy continues through thrive:

The overwhelming majority of women accept the patriarchy and protect it. Traditionally, the violated wife offloads her aggression onto the daughter-in-law. Men dominate women through the agency of women themselves.

Many of us have learned so much from watching her live her life, with a raised fist and speaking her truth - albeit sometimes with a quivering and high pitched voice - determined to ensure that changes becomes a reality.

Oryx Media Archive/Gallo Images via Getty Images
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Winnie Madikizela-Mandela speaking at an ANC rally in Khayelitsha. (Photo by Oryx Media Archive/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Maya Angelou's "When Great Trees Fall" sums up what I mean when I speak of the importance of being able to see another woman shake up the world and having the conviction that you, too, can.

And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.

Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela existed. She did. And I can be better because she did.