Tribute to Ms Tembeka Nkamba van Wyk by Minister Nathi Mthethwa

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17 Feb 2015

It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing on of multi-skilled and talented cultural visionary, communicator, activist and entrepreneur, Dr Tembeka Nkamba-Van Wyk who died recently following a short illness.

Sis Tembeka, as she was fondly called, was a selfless academic and dedicated cultural entrepreneur who played a pivotal role in transforming African crafts into a business enterprise and thus encouraged rural African women to create their own jobs to become self-sufficient and economically self-reliant.

We offer our condolences to her family, friends and the crafts community that looked up to her as an inspiration and visionary leader.

Dr Nkamba-Van Wyk was the founder of the world renowned cooperative, Ngezandla Zethu that mobilized the crafts sector, especially rural African women, to use their talents to assert the dignity of African culture and creativity to encourage a spirit of self-determination.

For this, she became a world renowned and multi-award winning business pioneer who, through her passion and commitment,  transformed a simple yet profound grassroots intervention into an initiative that gave hope and meaning to lives of thousands of marginalized women. At the time of her death, she headed the Tshwane Cultural & Craft Design Hub that provided space for skills training and employment to youth in the region.

The highlight of her achievement that transformed her life was when she founded and launched the Talking Beads Academy in 1997 to use crafts as an instrument to fight poverty and thus encourage African women to use their talents and skills to realize economic independence and self-determination.

To many people throughout the country and the world, she was known as the inspiring face of Ngezandla Zethu, a creative and cultural cooperative enterprise that prioritized and highlighted the role of crafts sector to job creation and economic development. In fact, it had over 6000 women who were affiliated with it throughout the country.

Significantly, Dr Nkamba-Van Wyk was a rare example of a former African corporate executive who quit the rat race to work among her people. Previously, she was a high-flying Chief Director of Communications in the Presidency of Nelson Mandela in 1995.

But she was no stranger to the arts and culture sector. In fact, she was a well-recognized children’s book writer, radio producer and script writer. Her special focus was to use both literature and broadcasting to enrich her young audience, especially African youth, to gain the confidence to express themselves about developments in their communities.

Her intuitive connection with the grassroots saw Izandla Zethu appointed to tap into its network in the marginalized communities to give voice to the people through conducting community conversations on nation building and social cohesion. These culminated in the National Social Cohesion Summit that was held in Kliptown, Soweto in 2012.

Dr Nkamba-Van Wyk was widely acknowledged for her work of highlighting the role of craft in the economy and using it as an instrument to facilitate nation building and social cohesion.

In fact, she won and was awarded numerous prizes, including the first Gauteng Arts and Culture Heritage Awards and Shoprite Best Woman of the Year Business Award, to name a few. She also received an honorary doctorate in philosophy from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Dr Nkamba-Van Wyk served on several advisory boards including the Independent Development Trust (IDT), Gauteng Arts and Crafts Council, Ntsika and the National Heritage Council Ubuntu Panel.

May her soul rest in peace.

For further details call Spokesperson for Arts & Culture Minister, Sandile Memela at 0828003750.

The memorial service of the late award-winning cultural visionary, entrepreneur, academic, poet, writer and women empowerment activist Tembeka Nkamba Van Wyk will be held on Wednesday 18 at the Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History, Visagie Street, Pretoria from 12 noon to 3pm.

For further details call Basil Dube at 071 502 0564