Nomzamo: Becoming Winnie Mandela

Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela, revered, respected and loved; known most commonly as Winnie Madikizela Mandela (The Mother of a Nation).

What is it to be the mother of a nation? The intersection of Blackness and womanhood in a mostly racist patriarchal society that has been defiled, plundered, ravaged by colonization and a legacy of white supremacy that has instilled intergenerational violence through apartheid:

A system of institutionalised white supremacist ideology that started with the 1913 Land Act that separated and discriminated against all non white africans for the economical and societal intergenerational wealth of all white people but most specifically white south afrikaners. The results of apartheid laws and legislations and its consequential legacy remains today effectively disenfranchising Black and none white South Africans.   

Patriarchy will have you remember Nomzamo as only a good woman who stuck by her of man, a wife "who kept the memory of her imprisoned husband alive during his years on Robben Island" — overlooking that she helped give the struggle for justice and Black Liberation in South Africa one its most recognisable faces: Nelson Mandela.

As a woman, she was multi-dimensional, strong, resilient and had real flaws.

She loved hard, was outspoken and passionate and it cost her everything.

In thirteen years she spent only 10 months free and unrestricted, she was banned from her community, banned from entertaining people in her home, her every movement was surveilled. She was consistently imprisoned, often detained without trial, dragged out of her house and forced to leave her young daughters, Zindzi and Zeni, clinging to her skirt, crying.

Hardened by years of torture and then solitary confinement she later wrote:

“[It] was designed to kill you so slowly that you were long dead before you died. By the time you died, you were nobody. You had no soul anymore and a body without a soul is a corpse anyway. It is unbelievable that you survived all that,”

But who was she really, why did she spend a lifetime radically passionate about Black liberation and what inspired her to devote her adulthood fervidly fighting apartheid?

We know Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela is a brilliant Black woman and that she will never be defined by her roles as a freedom fighter, nor wife of, mother of or activist for—

The New York Times called her “Charming, intelligent, complex, fiery and eloquent”.

The Toronto Star referred to her as “beautiful and violent.”

The Times UK called her "monstrous" and "mesmerising".

And a clue to who she was lies in her first name, Nomzamo, which means “she who must endure trials.”

This article was co-written by mother-daughter Human Rights advocate team Akio Maroon and Ocean — formally “Emilie Ruel” — and edited by Akio Maroon

Ocean is a 10yr old francophone performance artist who is a young human rights activist. Along with Black liberation she is a disability advocate for children like her younger sister who is both deaf and disabled.  At age 9 she gave her 1st deputation to the Mayor, Chief of Police and police services board to end the SRO programme which had police in schools. She is an older mentor to younger kids in Black Lives Matter Freedom School program and has been awarded local and international awards for her leadership and courage.

Akio Maroon is a dedicated single mother, a Community Organiser and Educator, a Board Member of Pride Toronto and a Human Rights Advocate who speaks on the topics of Black Liberation, Equality & Diversity, Consent Culture and Gender-based Violence. Akio currently sits on Ontario’s Provincial Roundtable on Violence Against Women.