OkayAfrica's 100 Women

100 Women: Nomzamo Mbatha Wants Black Women to Know That They "Don't Have to Be Polite"

The South African actor, humanitarian and spokesmodel talks her rise to stardom, and letting her voice be heard.

Nomzamo Mbatha is a star—plain and simple.

The South African actor, spokesmodel and humanitarian has carved out a unique path for herself in the industry, and she's inspiring other young black women to do the same, unapologetically.

In our latest video, the 100 women honoree tells us how she discovered her passion for the arts at an early age growing up under the care of her grandmother, and she explains why it's vital that black women cease being "polite" for the sake of others—there's no room for timidity.


Mbatha encourages us all to take our seats at the table, and demand that our voices be heard.

"We don't have to be polite, we don't have to be apologetic about it," says Mbatha. "When you cannot communicate your feelings, when you can't communicate your words, someone else can take that narrative and control it for you."

Though there will undoubtedly be obstacles in our way to achieving greatness, Mbatha shares some frank words of wisdom: "You're practicing towards your greater self, which you will never ever reach, but you know what, that's the fun of life—we gotta keep busy whilst we're here!"

Mbatha is certainly practicing what she preaches. Watch the full video below.

This article appears as part of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2018—a project highlighting the impactful work done by African women across the globe. Throughout March, we will be publishing a series of profiles, videos, interviews and feature stories on these inspirational women.

Click here to see the entire list of 2018 honorees.

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

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Image courtesy of Ley Uwera.

What’s in a Photo? We Go Behind the Lens With Congolese Photographer Ley Uwera

Ley Uwera gives us the backstory on some of the most riveting images she's taken of life in DR Congo.

Ley Uwera has a gift.

With a single flash of a camera, the radio reporter turned photojournalist has the ability to tell stories that both preserve and shift the narrative of what it means to be Congolese; specifically life in Eastern Congo, wrought with misleading tropes and stereotypes perpetuated by a Western lens.

A graduate of the Université de Cipromad in Goma, Uwera always knew she wanted to find a career that married her passion for creativity and her interest in humanity. In her fifth year of photojournalism, she has curated a body of work that captures the soul of her people beautifully. And sometimes, painfully. It's storytelling, she explained to OkayAfrica, and it's necessary in order to see the full picture.

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Still from Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim's TED Talk

Watch Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim's  TED Talk on How Indigenous Knowledge Can Help Fight Climate Change

The Chadian activist—and one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020—says traditional knowledge, as practiced in her native Mbororo community, is one of the keys to combatting climate change.

In a new TED Talk, climate activist, geographer and one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, discusses the role that indigenous knowledge can play in combatting climate change.

During the 13-minute talk, Ibrahim emphasizes how the exploration and acceptance of various knowledge systems–including those that fall outside of the scope of typical scientific research–can add to our understanding of ways to protect the environment. "I think, if we put together all the knowledge systems that we have -- science, technology, traditional knowledge -- we can give the best of us to protect our peoples, to protect our planet, to restore the ecosystem that we are losing," says Ibrahim.

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Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach.

South Africans Condemn Police Brutality During National Lockdown

A number of videos have emerged on social media allegedly showing the intimidation and assault of several Black South Africans by law enforcement.

South Africa recently began a nationwide lockdown in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been deployed across the nation to aid the police in ensuring that the rules of the lockdown are upheld. However, disturbing footage has emerged on social media allegedly depicting law enforcement agents assaulting Black South Africans.

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