In celebration of powerful women

In a world dominated by patriarchy, it is a privilege to engage with and report on the endeavours of powerful young women.

Two weeks ago I sat at Longridge Wine Estate on the R44 and chatted to 19-year-old Emily Hobhouse.

She is a direct descendant of the Emily Hobhouse who played such an enormous role in exposing the horrors to which Boer women and children were subjected during the Anglo-Boer War.

When she discovered from whom she was descended, she set about finding out what her famous great-great aunt had done.

She notes that the Anglo-Boer War hardly merits a mention in contemporary history texts in the United Kingdom, and it was only through diligent research and reading, that she was able to learn the history of the war, Britain’s role in it, the suffering of the Boer people at the hands of the British, and the part her aunt played in relieving that suffering.

“It’s almost as if the British people are ashamed of what happened during the Anglo-Boer War,” she said.

She resolved to follow in the footsteps of her famous ancestor, so she journeyed here by ship, and visited many of the places that her aunt had, including the National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein, the inauguration of which her famous aunt was to attend as guest of honour, but did not due to ill health.

In the course of her travels through South Africa, which ended at Longridge Wine Estate – cellarmaster Jasper Raats had coincidentally launched a chardonnay pinot noir blend called The Emily in tribute to Emily Hobhouse last year – Emily engaged with many people.

The insights and perspectives she developed about the impact of the Anglo-Boer War on the people of South Africa, that endure to this day, which she shared with me, are truly remarkable.

Last week on our front page (“The wide-eyed wanderer”, Bolander June 1), we told the story of 32- year-old Somerset West artist Tamsin Relly, who lives and works in London. Tamsin’s work is dedicated to exploring the relationships between economic and political power structures, everyday life, and the exploitation of the planet.

She has journeyed to remote places and extreme environments, collecting the material she needs to create her arresting, evocative art, which chronicles how we are drawing cheques against our ecological bank account that we can never, as a species, honour.

A person of great sensitivity and compassion, she is nonetheless uncompromising in her depiction of what we are doing to our dwindling habitat.

And this week, we tell the story (“Blind hikers beat the odds”, on our front page) of Strand resident, 38-year-old Zelda Oosthuizen, who tragically lost her sight in a shooting accident in 2012, but undaunted by her handicap, will be hiking the Fish River Canyon later this month.

And why is she doing it? To raise awareness of the plight of blind people, in a society which treats blind people as if they are congenitally defective, rather than disabled like somebody who has lost a leg or an arm.

Zelda has risen above a personal, physical calamity that would devastate most people. There is no trace of self-pity in her. Rather, there is a titanium-hard determination to rise above her adversity, and to make the lives of those who share her disability, better.

Insightful. Adventurous. Sensitive. Determined. Forthright.


Powerful women, indeed.