Wait… What connection between South Africa and Africans of the Diaspora…?!

With all of the conversation surrounding the relationship between Diasporic Africans and Continental Africans, I think it is the perfect time to share a unique connection between Africans of the Diaspora and Black South Africans that I had never heard before.

Khwezi with Alfred and Nosipho in February 2015 

I first met Alfred in 2015 during my first visit to Clermont, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I had spent the entire day before watching his wife Nosipho cook meal after meal (she was the umpheki) as the rest of us chopped and chopped and chopped the different vegetables for each meal. I honestly had never seen cooking pots so big, but they were necessary to accommodate the steady stream of people who were coming during umsebenzi In preparation for the funeral and celebration of the life of the loved one that would occur over the next few days.


I have not talked much about that experience… perhaps I will some day. It was there in Clermont that I noticed the many similarities to what I had experienced during the summers at my grandparents house in rural Alabama throughout my childhood. So many things felt familiar… Perhaps I will share more about that some time.

Anyway, I first met and had an opportunity to speak with Alfred after the funeral. I was excited to see both Alfred and Nosipho last month during our traditional Zulu wedding celebration. After all of the greetings and introduction to my husband, he told me that he had something he wanted to say to African Americans. I was curious about what he would say. And once I heard his message, I promised I would share it.

“My name is Afred Mandlakayise Ziqubu. I’m from Umlazi. Umlazi is South of Durban. This… Clermont being west of Durban. I want to say something about YOU coming here to South Africa to have the ceremony… the wedding ceremony. People don’t know what African Americans are. Most of African Americans went to America as slaves, our forefathers, but the difference between South Africa, KZN which is KwaZulu-Natal, the difference is that people were sent by King Shaka to go and learn the wisdom of Americans in America. Which makes you, when you are coming here, you are coming to your home… your real home… this is your roots, so YOU ARE WELCOMED.”

Oh… and I will add this for good measure. African peoples have always honored greatly mouth-to-ear, spoken history. All (yes, I said ALL) of those who retain a connection to their family lineage know their family name(s) for many previous generations. (I have taught 13 year olds who knew.) This knowledge is most likely not given to them in a book or on a piece of paper, but it is written on their hearts through the sharing of oral histories. It is from that place and sense of knowing that this message is shared.

Let the unpacking begin…

So… Dr. Doula, why do you doula?

My conversations with Zinzile were rich and fulfilling while I was in South Africa. I used every available opportunity to ask questions about her work in maternal health with the Human Rights in Childbirth Summit: South Africa 2015, her experiences as the Zulu Doula, and her expertise as a town planner and the co-owner of Azania Strategic Urban & Rural Developers (Pty) Ltd in South Africa. I always find it intriguing to consider others’ processes and perspectives… Zee has much to share.

As we were awaiting our meals at a restaurant one day, we were discussing some of the experiences we had had together. We had visited some new mothers and their newborns the day before where out of the six mothers who had birthed, four had birthed by cesarean-sections, which they call caesars. Zee explained the high rates of c-sections at South Africa’s public hospitals and even higher rates at private hospitals.

Modern technological advancements in maternity care include c-sections for mothers that face medical challenges. Still, as with any major medical surgery, there are possible complications that have prompted the development of global initiatives to reduce c-section rates in an effort to improve maternal health.

At some point, Zee turned the video on me, asked me about my motivation for being a birth mentor and doula (among all of the other hats I wear), and pushed record.  Here was my impromptu response:

An Interview with Renowned South African Midwife – Marianne Littlejohn

Marianne Littlejohn is a midwife from Cape Town, South Africa. She is legendary for her commitment toward empowering midwives and improving birth outcomes through workshop trainings about shoulder dystocia – situations where a “baby requires an assisted maneuver in order to allow the baby’s shoulders to pass through the birth canal” – and Helping Babies Breathe.

When I was first researching Black midwives in South Africa, I found Marianne’s article Midwifery and Apartheid in South Africa, was one of the few places I was able to find out information about African women’s roles in childbirth from a historical perspective. I also appreciated that she honored a very notable midwife, Albertina Sizulu, for her contributions, especially toward ending apartheid.

I really enjoyed meeting Marianne and seeing her passion for women, birth, and healthy babies up close and personal. She was gracious and granted me an interview.