Sinki’s leaving a legacy
Sinki Mlambo is perplexed, her gaze drifts from the arm of her friend to her own and then to the pile of crayons scattered on the desk beside her.
She mulls the question over: “Can you please pass me the menskleur (human colour) one?”
Dumbfounded she compares her dark, chocolate complexion to her friend’s light, pinkish skin tone.
“I think that’s the moment I started thinking critically,” the communication student at the North-West University (NWU)’s Potchefstroom campus jokes almost two decades on.
“That was the first time I realised that I was the only black learner at our school,” she says.
For Mlambo, culture breaches the confines of adolescent conditioning.
“I don’t see black or white. What I see is the world through ‘Sinki-race’ lenses. Life has taught me to be colour blind. I have a deep respect for every culture and there are aspects of each culture that I truly admire.
“For instance, I love the way Afrikaans men open doors for their wives or girlfriends, just as I admire the way the elderly are treated and respected in the Xhosa culture. We’ll never even consider dishing ourselves food before our parents.
“I have friends of every creed and colour, but the ones who make me laugh the most are my coloured friends. I absolutely adore their sense of humour,” she says.
Mlambo’s father speaks Afrikaans and her mother’s vernacular is that of a proud Xhosa.
Pressed to define herself in terms of heritage, the bubbly 22-year-old stretched her arms as far apart as a fisherman’s’ boast and says: “I’m Xhosiaans. I was brought up in a Xhosa household and I’m fluent in Xhosa, just as I’m fluent in Afrikaans. From grades 1 to 12 I was in an Afrikaans school (High School Grens) and very active in all manner of activities.
“I think in Afrikaans and in Xhosa, but one’s mother tongue remains one’s mother tongue. If I’m jolted awake at night I scream in Xhosa. The first time I told a guy I love him, he was Ndebele, I said it in Afrikaans and he said it back to me in Afrikaans. ”
As the current primaria of her residence, Oosterhof, the hugely popular convictions of Mlambo’s filters down to every resident.
“I despise racism. People with racist thoughts and inclinations disappoint me. How do we go about changing that? I always say that we are all God’s children. That means our roots are the same. Why does the packaging matter?”
Weather the storm
She loves drama, expresses herself with a wit as sharp as a tack and is armed with an inestimable amount of enunciations.
There is, however, no small amount of sadness that lurks behind her glistening disposition.
On July 11 2012 her youngest sister attended a serenade camp in Hibberdene, Durban.
The very next day Mlambo was at her home in East London consoling her devastated mother, and cooking for house occupied by 30 people swathed in sorrow and filled with remorse.
The road between East London and Queenstown took the life of Thuli, her sister, only 28-years old.
“It was the first time that my life didn’t make sense to me. Before that I could handle anything that life threw at me,” she says, “I would have been an aunt to her children.”
She hesitates, finds an invisible speck on her skirt and scratches it.
“I can’t remember if I gave her a hug the last time I saw her or if I gave her a kiss and told her that I loved her. After a while I decided not to linger on that last 15 seconds I spent with her, but remember the 22 years of beautiful memories. There are so many things I miss about her.
“It was two different kinds of pain for us, for me and my mother. She didn’t know what it felt like to lose a sibling, I didn’t know what it felt like to lose a child. My mom is every-thing to me. She is a single parent and a very strong woman. Nothing is a challenge for her. She supported me through everything and never stopped believing in me.”
Mlambo’s faith has paid dividends.
Since enrolling at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom campus, Mlambo has proven herself a leader par excellence.
She served on the Student Representative Council’s arts and current affairs portfolios.
The current affairs portfolio was created to promote the participation of black students within formal leadership structures on the campus and in 2011 she saw an opportunity to develop black leaders even more. It’s called “Leave a Legacy”.
Each year the raw leadership potential of 135 black students is refined, while they are empowered to excel as leaders both on campus and in the public sector.
“They call us the ‘born frees’, but it is shocking how many of my generation have such a limited vision. We are the future; we are already the leaders of our country. We were born colour blind and this means we can play an integral part in bridging intercultural gaps. There is no reason this country can’t realise its massive potential and it is our duty, my duty, to ensure this.”