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A Woman of Wisdom: Nontombi Naomi Tutu


of Many Lands By Kris Steinnes


Naomi was given the name of Nozizwe by her grandmother, which means mother of many lands and that she is – having grown up in South Africa, attended board- ing school in Swaziland, spent her college years in England and the United States. She has also lived in Lesotho, and divides her adult life between South Africa and the US. She’s starting a new project named Nozizwe Project, which brings together all the work she’s done to date with the mission to bring people of many lands together.


Naomi claims everyone’s entry in the knowledge of apartheid came about in different ways. Her introduction came when she was 6 ½ and began attending a boarding school in Swa- ziland, where Naomi spent most of the year two days drive away from her parents. The trip was challeng- ing because of the discriminations they faced, such as not being able to use the bathroom at gas stations or eat at roadside cafes because they would not serve black people. In addition they had to register


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with the police station to visit their grandparents in Krugersdorp, where her parents were born. Those experi- ences were Naomi’s introduction to the reality of apartheid and impacted her life.


As a parent herself, she looks at her children at 6 ½ and thinks “oh my goodness, I don’t know if I would have had the courage of my parents to be willing to send my children out into the world at that age, without my protection.” Boarding school at that age was a very strange experi- ence and in many ways frightening and traumatic. She shared how the school had children ranging in age from 6 to 14, which opened the door for bullying, and those experi- ences are things that she still lives with.


Everybody tried to make sense of being far away from home, and jockeyed for positions. There was a strange dynamic set up that encouraged older children to take advantage of younger children. One of her most vivid memories is when


Dec/Jan 2011-2012


she burned her legs and tried to see the nurse at the clinic, which was only open when students were sup- posed to be cleaning the yard. For two days the older girls wouldn’t let her go because they said she was just trying to get out of do- ing her work. By the time she got to the clinic the burn had become so infected that she still carries a scar on her legs to this day.


When she was growing up her father, Desmond Tutu, was known in South Africa, but he wasn’t a world figure yet, which was a blessing for her family. So she was able to have a more or less normal upbring-


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