I remember vividly the first time I saw Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on TV. The evening news was reporting on an important conference and in the middle of the keynote address, Winnie arrived late. She bumped chairs, dropped things and made such a racket that the proceedings stopped entirely and she stole the show. It was all anyone could speak about. Winnie walks to the beat of her own drum no matter what, and that’s partly why so many people love this anti-apartheid heroine. It could also be the reason so many people hate her, too.
Winnie lives precariously between fame and infamy, between heroism and villainy. In 2001, the ANC publicly denounced her for what the party called ‘tomfoolery’ and unfit behaviour while she was at one of the party’s events. The stories go on and on. In a stunning 2017 documentary titled Winnie, German director Pascale Lamche recounts the life of this dynamic struggle icon from a personal point of view that is often overlooked.
The documentary focuses on Winnie and her life in apartheid South Africa, while her then-husband Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island. While Madiba was in prison, it was Winnie who faced the full evils of apartheid – a part of the story that is often forgotten. The documentary is filled with personal interviews as well as moving video footage from the apartheid years. It pieces together the cycle of propaganda which was created to discredit Winnie during apartheid, as well as the years after it came to an end. You can see the trailer for the documentary below:
Now 80, Winnie is larger than life, as she is remembered, celebrated and immortalised in film, literature and fashion. Love her or hate her, she has made a huge impact on South Africa’s history and continues to capture the attention, amazement and sometimes puzzlement of people. A while back, Marie Claire spoke to the incredibly talented stylist Lethabo ‘Boogy’ Maboi about why powerful women like Winnie continue to inspire young creatives. You can look at the stunning Winnie-inspired photo series here.