The legacy of Ma Albertina Sisulu is that of an icon who, throughout her life, inspired South Africans to do better, go further and invest in others. The recognition of her birth year, 100 years ago, is celebrated alongside the centenary of both Stellenbosch University (SU) and former President Nelson Mandela.
A large banner of Ma Albertina Sisulu has this week (7 November) been installed on the side of the Admin A building, overlooking the Rooiplein. The banner faces the banner of Mandela at the entrance of the Neelsie Student Centre.
The Rooiplein was one of the first spaces where the University's centenary branding was made visible when the bridge between the Admin A and Admin B buildings was branded in March this year. This was followed by the Mandela installation in July, and now the Ma Sisulu installation.
“In this way the University is showing that our centenary is not standing in isolation, but is linked to other centenaries in our country," said dr Barbara Pool, senior director: Strategic Initiatives and overarching manager of SU's centenary initiatives.
The request for honouring Ma Sisulu originated with prof Hester Klopper, deputy vice-chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation. “It reminds us of the role that women has played, and is still playing, in building our nation," said Klopper. “Although they are not always the loud voices and public face, you should never underestimate their power and the way that they make their voices heard in many ways. By honouring Ma Sisulu, we honour all women."
The University wanted to install something significant on the Rooiplein, a space where many students and staff walk. Bypassers would also draw inspiration from Sisulu's quote on the banner: “We are each required to walk our own road and then stop, assess what you have learned and share it with others."
Pool hopes that the banner will stimulate conversation, especially among students. For both the Mandela and the Sisulu installation, quotes were picked that are generally inspirational, but aimed particularly at students. The idea was to provide encouragement to students as they walk past.
- Albertina Nontsikelelo Thethiwe was admired for her work as a nurse, midwife, and community activist. With a political career spanning six decades, she earned the respect and admiration of all those involved in the struggle against apartheid both in South Africa and internationally.
She was born on 21 October 1918 in the village Camama in the Tsomo district of the Transkei to a very large family. Ma Sisulu joined the ANC Women's league in 1940 and emerged as a political leader in her own right. She was one of the organisers of the historic anti-pass women's march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 where 20 000 women protested against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act, the government's new ruling that all African women had to carry passes.
Ma Sisulu died on 2 June 2011 at the age of 92.
Photo: Sandra Mulder