The Speaker – Didintle Ntsie

This rad human is someone I’ve had the very good fortune of being acquainted with for at least 7 years. We met, initially, through the fluid madness that was Observatory in the mid 2000s – to be honest, we may have been living in the same house, but one can’t be sure of living arrangements in Obz.

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Why is she featured here?

OK, if you are Capetonian, then you won’t be asking this question. Didintle (that’s Didi to some of you) is GOING places. She’s got a voice that you can’t suppress, and opinions with a capital O, and when she speaks, you PAY ATTENTION. And she doesn’t even raise her voice. The thing she does, and does so well, is stand firmly on the ground with her vibrant personality (and I know it’s irrelevant & hardly feminist, but you’ll notice it when you see her: her slap-in-the-face good looks), and speaks about uncomfortable & important things in social spaces.

On our lekker lunch in Green Point.

On our lekker lunch in Green Point.

Background

Didi’s first notable mark was made with her blog which she started after she left South Africa for a student exchange to Sweden in 2011. She ran the thoughtful, colourful blog with the tag line: ‘Scribblings of an Inexperienced Heart” at http://swedishgarden.wordpress.com. In it she documented her travel experiences & had begun bringing up issues of ethnicity & gender amid content celebrating the beauty and wonder of life from her perspective in a variety of different (global and local) contexts.

Upon her return to South Africa, this ‘little blog’ caught the attention of The Big Blog Exchange and she was soon off to Belgium to do a bit of a life swap with a local blogger there. The posts were constantly entertaining, insightful & influenced by the consistently cheerful attitude with which she launched her observant critiques.

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Today
Didi is, without a doubt, a person who engages with people. She’s the sort of person who would do well being abducted by aliens because after a few inquiring questions about how the hell she got there, she’d probably make herself at home very quickly & be the life of the party in no time. The social world is her domain.

Which is why it made so much sense when she started projects such as the 100-in-one-day (Cape Town chapter), and the Travelling Speech Bubble. She also joined the Cape Town Partnership as an activator of public spaces. What is that, you ask? Well, you know all those random – but usually rather lovely – public spaces such as the City Hall, Church Square, Greenmarket Square (OK, these are all in the same area, but you get my meaning)? They’re all public. And this means that they’re all available for US, the residents of Cape Town, to use! That’s right – you have an event you’d like to plan? Book it in one our public spaces! There are limitations (alcohol, etc.), but you can access the rules by contacting the city or the Cape Town Partnership. She’s planning on putting a booklet together too.

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Didi hasn’t let her growing presence in the public eye stifle the vocalness of her opinions – far from it. Recently she launched, via Facebook, a project called the #TruthbeTold series which was, in her own words, “‪a series of curated opinions, observations & feelings, often related to difficult or uncomfortable topics”. This meant that, over the course of a fortnight, she openly shared & discussed topics & opinions about some controversial or uncomfortable issues which affected or interested her. These included topics such as gentrification in Cape Town, identity, love, personal peace, inequality, apartheid, ethical living.

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Why was this so cool? Because it created fierce debates & moved Facebook from the happy facade one often tries to keep it at and allowed her to face the onslaught of criticism & fury (among responses of overwhelming support) on this very personal level. Our personalities are carefully cultivated in our social media profiles – yes, we’ll post pictures of our participation in the Slut Walk or share George Takei’s anti-homophobia memes. But do we feel comfortable revealing our innermost feelings in all their rawness? Would I, for example, feel happy to generate a list of all the things which make me uncomfortable?

But forget about what I or you would do. What I LOVED about these posts was what it revealed about Didi – that she has immersed herself entirely in a social world & not just because she’s good at it or enjoys it. She did so to ENGAGE. She got in there, surrounded herself by a wide variety of people and then put a nice, juicy, debatable topic in front of them while simultaneously opening her arms & saying: “Talk to me!”. And we did. There was a lot of butthurt, but there was a significantly larger amount of thoughtful responses. Not all agreed with her, and she discussed these things comfortably. I get scared when being criticised publicly because I always fear that I spoke to soon or was wrong in my opinion. Didi isn’t afraid of being wrong, it seems, but isn’t too proud to discuss (calmly) why people might think she’s wrong.

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What’s next?

Didi has a sort of ‘grab it by the horns’ approach, and has discussed a video series or talk show – which I think will be very well received. I saw her once on a morning lifestyle show (Espresso, I think), being interviewed for the 100-in-one-day project, and she was alarmingly comfortable in front of the screen – who’s takes to the screen that quickly? And how? And what does she know that I don’t? Needless to say, I’m not the world’s smoothest woman. Think: flying limbs & awkward lip-licking and uncontrollable blinking (like Tyra, but without the hotness).

She’s launched her own Cape Town based blog: https://heythesearemyfriends.wordpress.com/ which I’ve had a look at and love already 🙂

At a #changemakers dinner with the likes of Thuli Madonsela & Mpho Tutu.

At a #changemakers dinner with the likes of Thuli Madonsela & Mpho Tutu.

To Sum

I ranted a lot about this epic woman here. I did so, not because she’s one of my friends, but because I truly feel that it takes an immense amount of bravery to put yourself out there in the vulnerable way she has, while championing admirable causes. Her fight does not begin or end with her own experience, but also those of the people she comes into contact with. Whether it is the rights of Cape Town’s homeless, or city’s under-appreciated artists – Didi will engage with them & help make us aware of them. And I sincerely hope that talk show happens – because she can appeal to an audience of young & curious minds that need an intelligent role model & voice. Hell, she’s a role model to me too (And she’s YOUNGER than me – argh). It started with first responding to her Facebook posts & then feeling confident expressing these opinions in a public arena. Now, in a short time, I reveal my views with confidence & will endure (and hopefully diplomatically engage with) criticism as it comes.

Yeah, so I say: “Go Didi. You’ve damn well got this one.”

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4 thoughts on “The Speaker – Didintle Ntsie

  1. Pingback: The Dilemma | Trawling through the streets of Cape Town

  2. Reblogged this on Scribblings of an inexperienced heart… and commented:
    This is a wonderful post my dear friend wrote about me. I find it completely wonderful that people see so much beauty in me, a beauty that I don’t always see in myself. This piece has given me an opportunity to stop and appreciate myself and my various contributions and efforts. Thanks TJ! You have breathed love into my soul!

  3. Pingback: Dear Cape Town – I have a dilemma | Scribblings of an inexperienced heart…

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