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Image from Zandile Ndhlovu's Black Mermaid website.

Zandile Ndhlovu, South Africa's first Black female free diver.

Zandile Ndhlovu Dives Deep To Change Narratives About Black People And the Ocean

Meet Zandile Ndhlovu, South Africa's first Black female free diver who aims to make the oceans more inclusive for Black youth, and transform South Africa's disenfranchised Black communities through her Black Mermaid Foundation.

Zandile Ndhlovu is currently the only licenced Black South African woman free diver instructor. However, that title is not enough. The Johannesburg-based diver has taken to Cape Town's shores to change the lives of Black youth who otherwise would not have the opportunity to dive. Ndhlovu's Black Mermaid Foundation project has recently been spotlighted in the news for its initiative that calls for the ocean diving community to be more inclusive.


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Ndhlovu's voice comes through passionately on CNN African Voices Changemakers, a feature series that highlights progressive Black members across the continent. Black youth admittedly suffer from the structural inequalities left by the Apartheid system, including the spatial segregation that limits access to the oceans. Furthermore, stereotypes about Black people and the fear of water are perpetuated by media and the existing structural barriers. This is where Ndhlovu comes in, only two years after receiving her free diver's license from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), she is reaching out to children from Cape Town's underprivileged communities, taking them to the waters for interactive exploration and teaching free diving. In so doing, she hopes to dispel the fear of waters.

"The foundation's work is continuously taking little people into the water... introducing them... Helping them understand that changing the stereotypes of the narratives that are attached to us about the ocean and that's the beautiful part" Ndhlovu expresses in the video clip.

Ndhlovu's entry into free driving was initiated in 2016 during a vacation in Bali where she learnt to overcome the fear of being submerged in water and fall into the calm of collecting sea shells from the ocean bed. On her return to South Africa, she discovered that she was the only Black women in classes for free diving and set on her way to change the space to be more representative. She revealed in an interview with 702 that the longest she can hold her breath is for three and a half minutes. Her Black Mermaid Foundation can be found here.

Watch the whole video below.

This free diver is creating a more diverse ocean. edition.cnn.com


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