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News and Events - Photo Essay: National Women's Day in South Africa

Photo Essay: National Women's Day in South Africa
By Louise Irvine 8/8/2017 10:22 AM Comments

On August 9th, South Africa celebrates National Women’s Day. This annual public holiday commemorates the 1956 march of 20,000 South African women against the country’s pass laws during the apartheid era. The women left bundles of petitions at the office doors of the Prime Minister in Pretoria and sang a protest song composed in honor of the occasion.

Below are a series of pictures commemorating the history for women in South Africa. 


Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, and Sophie Williams leading the National Women's March in 1956. 


A snapshot of a large crowd of women marching in 1956. 


Sophia Williams

Sophia Theresa Williams-de Bruyn was born in 1938, in Villageboard. She later became the founder member of the South African Congress of Trade Union, which is the predecessor of the Congress of South African Trade Union.


Rahima Moosa


Activist Rahima Moosa was born in the Strand, Cape Town on 14 October 1922 who became inspired to disrupt politics after understanding the unequal laws that ruled South Africa. In 1943 she became the steward for the Cape Town Hood and Canning Workers’ Union. In 1956, while pregnant, she helped organize the Women’s March, under the Federation of South African Women. 


Helen Suzman

Helen Suzman was born in the South African mining town of Germiston who became a South African apartheid activist and politician. She was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and for the chancellorship of the University of the Witwatersrand. Suzman was one of eleven liberal members that formed the Progressive Party in 1959. Suzman passed away on New Year’s Day 2009 at the age of 91.


 Helen Joseph

Helen Joseph is known for her life’s dedication to opposing apartheid while resisting harassment from the South African Government.. Born in England, Helen Joseph came to South Africa via India when she was twenty-six and immediately opposed the racism and gender inequalities in the country. In her lifetime she served roles in the Congress of Democrats, Federation of South African Woman, UDF and the ANC.


"Strike a woman, strike a rock"



In the years since the march, the catch phrase of the protest song “you strike a woman, you strike a rock” has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.


Celebrating Women Of Ardmore


Women play a major role at Ardmore from the founder Fée Halsted and her first collaborator, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, to all the talented female artists working in the studio today.


Fee Halsted 

Ardmore founder Fee Halsted is the creative genius behind the Ardmore studio in South Africa. Fée Halsted was born in 1958 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It was her natural affinity with ceramic arts and her ability to teach, that help create the Ardmore label. Once Ardmore hit its 30 year anniversary, Fée was honored with a doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


Bonnie Ntshalintshali

As a very early Ardmore collaborator, Bonnie Ntshalintshali found her personal inspiration from her Christian upbringing, rural surroundings and Zulu traditions. Ntshalintshali was intensely tutored by Fee Halsted, who describes the late artist as ‘kind’ and ‘patient’.Her work was so amazing for Ardmore that four years after her death, Fee Halsted opened the Bonnie Ntshalintshali Museum of Ardmore, the first museum in South Africa to be dedicated to a black female artist. 


Punch Shabalala

 Punch was born in 1969 in the Champagne Valley of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg. She is another example of the exceptional skill of women artist in South Africa, something that could not be possible without the progressive pushes made throughout time. In 2011 she was also invited as a guest artist at an exhibition of Ardmore work at a symposium held at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut.


A group of women artists delicately painting colors on new ceramic pieces at the Ardmore studio. 


Ardmore artist Jabu Nene shown here working on a piece. In 2013 Jabu and Somandla’s elephant vessel was selected to for an interiors magazine shoot in London and the following year, 2014, a similar vessel was selected by Southern Guild to represent SA at the Art Basel Design Fair in Miami. It was sold on opening night.


National Women’s day in South Africa is a day of great significance for all women within in South Africa. There are still many issues women face including parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and unequal pay amongst other things. Share this article in order to spread awareness of the wonderful efforts of women of South African women in the past and to highlight the talented creativity of women at Ardmore in the present. 


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