Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, was clearly moved as she watched the unveiling of a mural done in her honour by young Eastern Cape artists.
Captured on a library wall in the reigning queen’s home town of Tsolo, and in prominent public view, is the pastoral scene of Tunzi in full traditional dress and surrounded by young people.
It might be a rural scene but the words adorning the mural come directly from Tunzi and were said on the Miss Universe pageant stage in December in Atlanta, Georgia, when she advised young women to “Take up space in society.”
The reigning international queen is on a homecoming tour of South Africa, travelling around the country to meet her supporters. After arriving in Johannesburg at the weekend, she immediately flew home to the place of her birth in the Eastern Cape, where she was welcomed by friends and family, and honoured by two siblings and their friend who conceived and painted the mural.
Artist Lwando Hlazo and his sister Azola Ntlantsana dreamed up the idea of immortalising Zozibini in the area where she grew up. They were joined in the project by artist Aphethuxolo Sibariboyi.
At the unveiling, Tunzi thanked the team, pointing to their depiction of her saying: “They got me. That painting is beautiful and I love that they put me in traditional garb – a brightly coloured Xhosa bead necklace and a beaded headscarf. It’s relatable to everyone who lives here and I can carry this image with me wherever I am in the world.”
At Sunday morning’s unveiling of their Home of the Queen mural, the three were clearly awed to be in the presence of the woman they call their “heroine”.
Said Ntlantsana: “We have been looking forward to meeting Zozi and we are so excited to be finally doing so. It still doesn’t feel real that we’re actually here with her.”
The idea for the mural began when the siblings heard that Tunzi would be doing a homecoming tour of the Eastern Cape. Hlazo and Ntlantsana live in East London and are involved in several community building and empowerment projects.
Said Hlazo: “We had a dream to paint a mural of Zozibini in her home town of Tsolo, which also happens to be my hometown and where our mother still lives. I paint murals – both as a hobby and professionally – while my sister is just obsessed with Zozi and everything she stands for.
“Together, with Aphethuxolo Sibariboyi, we wanted to immortalise her and keep that motivation as a daily reminder to the youth and to anyone who passes through the town of Tsolo.”
The trio also used Zozi’s own words when planning the mural: “It’s not where you come from but what is important where you are going.”
The mural features blank spaces with names to be filled in – “to inspire local youth to achieve something extraordinary so they have their names written on that wall,’ said Hlazo.
Tunzi’s was the first name to be signed on the mural.
ZOZIBINI TUNZI QUOTES:
“I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It’s something that has been lacking young girls and women for a very long time, not because we don’t want to, but because of what society has labelled women to be.”
“I think we are the most powerful beings [in] the world, and that we should be given every opportunity. And that is what we should be teaching young girls, to take up space. Nothing is important as taking up space in society and submitting yourself.”
The Miss Universe homecoming sponsors are The Department of Arts & Culture, The Ministry of Communications, South African Tourism, Brand South Africa, Mercedes Benz and Sun International. The OR Tambo airport welcome sponsors include Gautrain, South African Airways and ACSA/OR Tambo. SA Express partnered with the Miss South Africa Organisation on the Mthatha flights.
Photographs: Yolanda van der Stoep.