Remembering Mama Winnie in the flesh

08 April 2018 - 00:00 By SHANTHINI NAIDOO

Like Che Guevara and Malcolm X, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will live on as a symbol of defiance.
For singer Buhlebendalo Mda, a way of immortalising Mam' Winnie was to permanently etch her onto her own skin.
Mda, a musician with The Soil, made an appointment with her tattoo artist, Thapelo "Tiplo" Tsotetsi from Black & White tattoo parlour in Rosebank, on the day Madikizela-Mandela died.
Tsotetsi said there were a few requests for tattoos of Madikizela-Mandela this week.
"Tattoos have a deep meaning for people. It is really personal and the art they choose is something they will defend every time someone sees it," Tsotetsi said.
Mda said she wanted her 13th tattoo to be a symbol, but it was also a form of healing after Madikizela-Mandela's death.
"I am torn by the death of Madikizela," she said.
"To deal with it, I wanted to have a remembrance of her on my skin. It is some sort of cure for me. The reason I have tattoos is as a form of expression of what I am, and at the same time an expression of pain. I like inflicting pain so I can deal with pain."
Mda said there were several photographs that she considered, but she wanted the tattoo of a fervent Madikizela-Mandela in traditional dress on her right forearm, the arm she raises in a fist.
"When I raise my fist I must see her," she said.
"I know for a fact that I will never forget her strength and resilience. I want to remember that every time I look at her on my arm. I feel she endured so much, and the pain that I am getting from this tattoo is nowhere close to what she had to deal with emotionally, physically and mentally."Mda said it was not a pop-culture symbol for her, but one of recognition, especially of Madikizela-Mandela's role as a mother.
"As a mother myself, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for a mother having to leave her children at home to fight for the safety and security of other mothers' children. And when you fight, you never know if you're going to win. You take your weapons and prepare, but there is no guarantee your children will have their mother back. They had no guarantee."
While preparing for the body art, Mda said: "I am here to heal. The only thing we have left is the memories and documentaries, her voice and her ideas in our minds. This tattoo is a way to remind me that the struggle is not over. We as women are fighting the same war she fought. Women are still not free. Women are still not seen or recognised. The power and strength of a woman is still questioned. We are always seen as a neck, never the head. But Madikizela was the head. She kept Madiba alive and hopeful in prison."
As Tsotetsi prepared the ink and the buzzing of the needle started, Mda was quiet for two hours until the artwork was complete, a very permanent symbol on her fist-raising arm.

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