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.

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