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#AllBlackWithADoek Pays Tribute to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

These South African women are wearing headwraps in honor of Mama Winnie.

Thousands of South African women are paying tribute to the freedom fighter Winnie Madikizela-Mandela today by wearing black clothes and a doek, beret or headscarf. The anti-Apartheid icon, who passed away this week at the age of 81, often embraced big and boldly-coloured headscarfs.

The social media campaign #AllBlackWithADoek was initiated by South Africa's ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC). This is part of a ten-day period of mourning period, which will conclude with Madikizela-Mandela's funeral on April 14th. Pictures of women, and even a few men, in their headgear have flooded Twitter, along with reflections on the impact of the legendary activist.


While Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is known to many as the wife of Nelson Mandela, she is a hero in her own right. They had only been married for four years when Mandela was banished to Robben Island, leaving Winnie to raise their two children alone. Sensing the power she held, the Apartheid government isolated Winnie, restricting her movements and infiltrating her inner circle with spies. For years, she was subjected to random raids in which her home was ransacked, which escalated to arrests, solitary confinement and torture. She famously recounted her experience in her book 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69.

In spite of this, Madikizela-Mandela remained outspoken about the experience of black South Africans and what it would take to achieve freedom. She stood firm in refusing to compromise with the Apartheid government, even when this garnered criticism and anger from other members of the ANC, particularly after Nelson Mandela became President in 1994. Madikizela-Mandela's history with the ANC is complex at best. By the time of her death, she had become a controversial figure in certain ANC political circles. So, all eyes have been on the party to see how they choose to commemorate her.

Since her passing, ANC leaders have been accused of using Winnie's name to advance their own agendas. Even President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that Winnie would receive a state funeral resulted in a virtual eye roll from Twitter users.

Julius Malema, leader of opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was not afraid to call out the ANC for the hypocrisy of associating with Madikizela-Mandela only after her death.

"...Those are the people who destroyed Winnie Mandela. They dissociated themselves with Winnie Mandela. We were with her. We were never ashamed of her," he said addressing a crowd in Soweto.

Malema remained friends with Madikizela-Mandela even after he left the ANC to start the EFF. His party marched through Soweto in their own commemoration ceremony this week. Malema's criticism extends to a larger debate over how Madikizela-Mandela will be remembered in South African history: too radical, or radical enough? Either way, the reaction to Mama Winnie's death on Twitter this week proves that she is a liberation hero worthy of commemoration.

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Photo by ER Lombard/Gallo Images via Getty Images.

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