The death of Winnie Mandela in April last year shocked many South Africans. It wasn’t sudden or especially untimely – she was 81 years old – but ‘Ma Winnie’ was an icon of the anti-apartheid movement and a controversial, seemingly indestructible, figure.
The second wife of Nelson Mandela was a radical, eloquent and courageous anti-apartheid activist in her own right. In later life she acquired a reputation for violent acts of vengeance, however, and was implicated in more than one murder.
Journalist Sisonke Msimang, author of The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela, believes we need to look longer and harder at the complicated legacy of this extraordinary woman. ‘Peace was hard-fought and therefore hard-won … [Winnie Madikizela-Mandela] was walking testament to the truism that brutalised people become brutal themselves.’
Was Winnie a hero or a thug? Is it possible to be both? How do we treat the legacies of violent women? And what does Winnie’s story tell us of the story of South Africa? At the Wheeler Centre in June, Msimang will tackle these questions and more. Hosted by Areej Nur.
Sisonke Msimang was born in exile to South African parents – a freedom fighter and an accountant – and raised in Zambia, Kenya and Canada before studying in the US as an undergraduate. Her family returned to South Africa after apartheid was abolished in the early 1990s. Sisonke has held fellowships at Yale University, the Aspen Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Maverick and the New York Times. She now lives in Perth, Australia, where she is head of oral storytelling at the Centre for Stories.
Areej Nur is a radio producer, presenter and educator. She is also co-founder of the podcast network Broadwave. Most of Areej’s work seeks to support women of colour, particularly black women, to be at the forefront of conversations about media, arts, race and feminism in Australia.