The original Karabo

We’re used to Mail & Guardian reporters winning awards. But it’s not everyday a fossil gets named after one.

M&G reporter Karabo Keepile is the namesake of the 1,9 million-year-old Australopithecus sediba—the recent paleontological find at the Cradle of Humankind that has caused waves in science circles.

Her sister, Omphemetse Keepile, was the winner of the competition to name the hominid—a young boy at the time of his death—which was found alongside a female of about 30.

Omphemetse is a matric student at St Mary’s School for Girls in Waverley, Johannesburg.

Her submission was chosen from over 15 000 entries by South African youngsters.

Omphemetse chose her sister’s name because: “it means ‘answer’ in seTswana,” Karabo said.

The scholar said the name suggested that answers were present and “more would follow”, thanks to the paleontological find.

Karabo is a unisex name, which can be given to either a boy or a girl.

We asked Karabo (24) what it felt like to have her name go down in the history books.

  • M&G:How do you look so good for your age?
    Karabo Keepile: Must be the dolomitic sediment Professor Berger said preserved me.

  • M&G: Seriously though ... are you going to steal some of your sister’s prize money?
    KK: Definitely not. She came up with the name and the motivation, so it’s all hers. She deserves it.

  • M&G: How much did she get anyway?
    KK: R100 000 in total. R25 000 goes to her school and the rest is for her education.

  • M&G: Wow, that’s a lot. Did you ever think your name was worth that much?
  • KK: Well, no.

  • M&G: How has your life changed now that you’re also a famous fossil?

  • KK: People recognise me all the time [laughs].

  • M&G: Do you know Mrs Ples?
  • M&G: Not personally, I’m afraid.

    Karabo Keepile has worked at the M&G since 2009. Follow her on Twitter.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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