Extraordinary women from South Africa make the list of OkayAfrica's 100 Women list, which celebrates African women – from the continent and the diaspora – making waves across a wide array of industries, while driving positive impact in their communities and the world at large.
style and beauty, media, music, business and economics, politics and activism, and art. It features some of South Africa's most prominent women: from advocate Thuli Madonsela and artist Lady Skollie, to actress Nomzamo Mbatha.
Here's who made the list from South Africa this year:
'Bongekile Simelane, the South African model, choreographer and songstress known as Babes Wodumo burst on the scene in 2016 with her hit single "Wololo" featuring Mampintsha, and broke the charts. "Wololo" quickly became the fourth-most played local song on South African radio, and the subsequently released album "Gqom Queen Vol. 1" beckoned the world back to the dance floor. That same year, she performed at the MTV Africa Music Awards, where she was nominated for Best Breakthrough Artist and Song of the Year.'
'Ndalo Media made history in 2017. The South African content company, which specialises in digital and print publishing, content marketing, events and experiences, acquired the licence to run ELLE and ELLE Decoration media brands and all their extensions. The move marked the first time that the ELLE media brand would be published by a 100-percent black-owned media company. At the helm of it all is CEO and founder Khanyi Dhlomo.'
'If you are looking for someone to dismantle the idea that women can't get their hands dirty, look no further than entrepreneur and industrialist Tebogo Anna Mashego. The 34-year-old South African native, born in Rustenburg, is the founder and CEO of Ditsogo Projects Proprietary Limited. In a leap of faith in 2012, Mashego left a cushy corporate job to create her own private business in steel and metal manufacturing. Ditsogo, located right in her hometown, specialises in drawings, steel engineering, and welding, and exports products to Kenya, Zambia and Malawi.'
Politics and activism
Advocate Thuli Madonsela
'Thulisile, better known as "Thuli" Madonsela's name is one we'll be sure to see in history books for centuries to come. The human rights lawyer, equality expert and South African advocate taught for many years, and in the late 80s and early 90s she segued into government – first, as a legal advisor and contract manager for public and private trade unions and later, in 1996, working closely with then President Nelson Mandela on the final constitution of South Africa. From 2009 through 2016 she served as public protector, an assignment under which she had the weight on her shoulders of exploring and correcting all instances of abuse of power and unethical practices. Madonsela always did what was just, and continues to do so as a member of the South African Law Reform Commission. Serious about her contributions to the political sphere, she has always been clear-cut about where she felt she was meant to make the most impact.'
'Sethembile Msezane was always told she could do anything she wanted to do. So far, she has... and then some. According to the South African visual artist and "sculpture" (yes, sculpture), in her household the "vocabulary that was encouraged was 'I will,' 'I can,' and an action plan to follow through. It still works today". Apparently so. Sethembile has performed and exhibited her art, and herself, around the world, using her own body to convey her artistic message. Her list of art accolades includes being the first recipient of the Rising Light award at the Mbokodo Awards in 2016, winning a TAF and Sylt Emerging Artist Residency (TASA) award that same year, and becoming a TED Global speaker in 2017, to name a few.'
'South African artist and visual activist Zanele Muholi has spent more than 10 years documenting the lives of the LGBT+ community in South Africa. Her Faces And Phases project is an ongoing series of positive imagery featuring black lesbian and transgender individuals, and was a response to the rampant violence taking place against them in her homeland. After having shot more than 250 portraits in that work, it began to take a toll on her emotionally. "I've listened to so many people's pain, and it meant I had to sleep with that pain when people moved on with their lives,'' she explains to Jenna Wortham for the New York Times Magazine. ''When do photographers get time to deal with their own pain and be given their space to do it?'' Though she didn't give up on documenting these stories, she decided to focus her lens on herself. With Somnyama Ngonyama or Hail, the Dark Lioness, she presented a series of self-portraits with a historical spin on South African politics. "This is why the self-portraits are so major to me,'' she continues. ''We get caught up in other people's worlds, and you never ask yourself how you became.'' And so she began the difficult work of looking at herself; her form of self-therapy. "The whole thing of turning the camera to yourself—it's really not easy,'' she says. ''Because you want to tell the truth, but at the same time you have reservations for confronting the self, dealing with you.'''
'Lady Skollie, born Laura Windvogel in Cape Town, South Africa, is an artist and activist now based in Johannesburg. While her paintings look playful on the surface with bright colours and uniquely posed subjects, given more time, they reveal themselves as riveting masterpieces.
Starting at a young age, Windvogel was trained in more traditional art forms — first studying at Frank Joubert Art Centre in Cape Town. In 2009, she received her BA of History and Art in Dutch Literature, and a Certificate in Business Acumen for Artists from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business in 2014.'
'Redi Tlhabi has spent her career using various platforms to tell the stories of those whose voices are either overlooked, or simply need to be amplified. The 39-year-old Johannesburg native is an author, TV and radio personality, producer, activist and member of the UN Global Journalists Corps. Over the course of her career, she has worked for some of South Africa's most respected media and news brands, including Kaya FM, SABC, SKY, the BBC, eNews and more. She once produced a controversial documentary on former South African president Thabo Mbeki, and produced and presented two TV shows— Redi on Mzansi for Mzansi Magic and South to North for Al Jazeera. However, the most impressive thing about Tlhabi is not where her work has been featured. It is how women's issues and sparking important conversations are at the crux of her most important projects.'
Film and TV
'For South African actress, humanitarian, producer and spokesmodel Nomzamo Mbatha, the pursuit of happiness is everything. What she loves most about her job (or many jobs, rather) is knowing that she is following her true passions, which are storytelling and assisting those in need.'
'When LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen began to rope in U.S. audiences with Spike TV's Lip Sync Battle (an evolution of Jimmy Fallon's late night segment), it was bound to go international. Lip Sync Battle Africa, one of nearly 15 global spinoffs, is recorded in Johannesburg with star hosts of their own: Denrele Edun and hometown representative, Pearl Thusi. Thusi, nicknamed "The Real Black Pearl," is an actress, model, radio and TV personality who calls KwaNdengezi in Durban, South African home.'
'It is always inspiring to witness black women excel in the sciences on a global scale. South African geologist Tshiamo Legoale has shaken up her field before hitting 30. Legoale, 27 and full of charisma, received one of the highest international awards, 2017 FameLab International Champion, for her metallurgical research last year.'
Sports and wellness
'In 2016, Elle South Africa named Zintle Ntshikila's @Teamhlasela one of five South African Health Instagrams to follow. Today, it remains clear why she was given that title. Perusing her page is instant motivation. The weight-loss consultant, fitness junkie and self-made healthy home cook posts vivid, enticing images of fresh produce and dishes she's prepared, and inspiring before-and-afters chronicling her personal health journey.'
'Many associate jumping rope with a children's game or a great source of cardio. Very few relate it to a competitive sport. For Keolebogile Mokolopo, it is her gift. She's held a national record for double team gold medallist at the Canada World Championships since 2006, and is a coach, facilitator and judge of rope skipping. In 2008, Mokolopo became demand coordinator of Sasol Sport Development Programmes, where she began holding rope-skipping clinics for the children of a community in South Africa.'
'Koleka Putuma uses her work to confront the difficult and sometimes taboo issues of black people in South Africa. Her aim is to heal through this exploration. And she doesn't care if she offends you in the process. "When we look at the country — but not only the country, in our families as well — you kind of realise that when you don't grieve or when you don't heal from something, collectively, as a group, or as people, things come back," she told between10and5.com. "There's a cycle. And even if you try and slip into a kind of amnesia, if you have not dealt with something, in one way or another, it's gonna return." The South African poet and playwright is breaking that cycle – through her debut anthology of poetry, "Collective Amnesia".'
'Malebo Sephodi deeply believes in being a voice for and working directly with the community around her. The South African activist, researcher and author — in 2017, she published her first book, "Miss Behave" — has carved a place for herself by addressing several socioeconomic issues and fighting for the dignity of human rights.'
Check out the full list of these amazing women.