Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons
Join Shanthini Naidoo, author of Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons along with journalist Donna Bryson, who wrote a powerful Foreword for the Book, as they celebrate and discuss this timely book.
In 1969, South Africa's apartheid government arrested anti-apartheid leaders and activists nationwide for a key planned show trial. Among them were seven women, three of whom (including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela) have since died. This book by South African journalist Shanthini Naidoo uses rich interview material to share the previously unknown stories of the four imprisoned women who are still living: Joyce Sikhakhane-Rankin, Rita Ndzanga, Shanthie Naidoo, and Nondwe Mankahla. These four freedom fighters were held in solitary confinement for more than a year and subjected to brutal torture in a bid to force them to testify against their comrades. But they refused to do so, which forced the whole trial effort to collapse. Women Surviving Apartheid's Prisons explores how women from different oppressed communities in South Africa defied traditional gender expectations and played a key role in the overthrow of Apartheid.
About Our Speaker
Author and Journalist
Shanthini Naidoo was a journalist with the Sunday Times, focusing on lifestyle, health and social justice, when she started studying for a Master’s in Journalism. When Winnie Mandela died in April 2018, Naidoo was among those who felt disappointed by how her life was portrayed by the local and international media, and made Mandela the focus of her academic research.
“While I was reporting on her funeral I came across the Trial of 22 and all these amazing women who were on trial with her, so I started looking into them and their stories,” she says. “They were individually fascinating, and together it made a really interesting narrative about their struggle experiences which you never hear about. They were so brave, with underground operations and meetings and spying and activism.”
The women had been ripped from their families and jailed as political prisoners, often in conditions that were even more brutal than those that the ANC leaders experienced, on Robben Island. Naidoo tracked down the survivors, interviewed them and their families, and wrote about their heroic deeds and their contribution to freedom and democracy.
Today there aren’t enough stories told about women who stand out for their bravery, determination and passion to change their world, so it’s crucial that these lost histories from the previous generations are revived. “Something I’ve always tried to do in my work — particularly because I have two daughters who I’m trying very hard to be a role model for — is to show visible strength, because in 2020 we still don’t have enough of that,” says Naidoo. “We need to hear these women’s stories so we can leverage on their strengths, because that’s something we absolutely need in South Africa. Storytelling is a tool for healing and we have generational wounds and generational trauma that we still feel. The important thing if we are ever going to survive is that we have to look backwards first. It’s my intention to use storytelling as a form of healing.” Naidoo lives in Johannesburg and has now left mainstream journalism to work in content marketing, writing and podcasting for Discovery. “Discovery is very much aligned with the health and wellness fields I’m focusing on,” she says.
About Our Moderator
Award-Winning Author & Journalist
Donna Bryson is housing and hunger reporter for Denverite, an online newsmagazine that is part of Colorado Public Radio. Last year her work for Denverite earned her the Journalist of the Year honor from the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Bryson has been a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press, based in Johannesburg, New Delhi, Cairo and London. She has freelanced for such publications as The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Bryson's 2018 book, Home of the Brave, recounts how Montrose, Colorado took on the challenge of helping military veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Home of the Brave won second place in the non-fiction book category of the National Federation of Press Women’s 2019 Communications Contest. Bryson is also the author of It’s a Black White Thing, which explores young South Africans' attitudes about race. It's a Black White Thing was shortlisted, in 2012, for the inaugural City Press Tafelberg Nonfiction Award, a national South African prize.
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