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Mon, 11.11.1901

Dora Tamana, South African Activist born

Dora Tamana

*On this date, in 1901, Dora Tamana was born. She was a Black South African activist.  

She was born Dora Ntloko at Nqamakwe, in Hlobo, Transkei, near Dutywa, then part of Cape Colony, South Africa. Her grandfather was a Methodist preacher, but as a teenager, she converted, with her family, to the Israelite denomination. She was 20 when her father died in the 1921 Bulhoek Massacre of Israelite sect members.

After her father's death, Dora Ntloko moved to Queenstown and married another Bulhoek survivor, John Tamana. She had eight children; three of her children died in infancy. During World War II, she lived in the Blouvlei settlement, where she became politically active with the Cape Flats Distress Association, resisting efforts to relocate the squatting residents. John Tamana left the family in 1948. She joined the Communist Party in South Africa and soon the African National Congress Women's League. Her interest was in self-help programs: a food committee, a women's sewing cooperative, and childcare; she became involved with the Athlone Committee for Nursery Education.

The women of this committee established several schools in disadvantaged areas and charitable projects. Others joined Tamana from that committee who worked to create the Blouvlei Nursery School and family health center in May 1955. She took a leadership role in the anti-pass movement in 1953 and, in 1954, became National Secretary of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW).

But in 1955, after attending the World Congress of Mothers in Switzerland with Lilian Ngoyi, she was banned by the South African government from attending political meetings. Harassed by police and rezoned out of Blouvlei, she moved to Gugulethu. She served two jail sentences in her sixties for activism, and her son Bothwell was imprisoned. But she stayed active with women's protests into the 1970s and spoke at the launching meeting of the United Women's Organization in 1981.

Her poem exhorted the next generations of South African women to unite and act together for change: 

You who have no words, speak.

 You who have no homes, speak.

 You who have no schools, speak.

 You who have to run like chickens from the vulture, speak.

 Let us share our problems so that we can solve them together.

 We must free ourselves. 

Dora Tamana died on July 23, 1983, aged 82 years. A park in Cape Town, named for Dora Tamana, was dedicated in 2015 by the government.

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