Scuba diving and other water-related recreational or professional activities aren’t naturally associated with Africans. However, South Africa’s Zandile Ndhlovu is changing the narrative. Her first encounter with water made her embrace the ocean and now, she’s a certified free diving instructor. In this article, we dive deep into Ndhlovu’s story.
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How Zandile Ndhlovu Found the Sea
Zandile Ndhlovu was born in Soweto, South Africa. She didn’t grow near the ocean and was told not to go deep into the water. However, in 2016, a snorkelling trip to Bali changed her perspective. Ndhlovu felt a sense of freeness she hadn’t experienced when she went under the water.
After this, she took a scuba diving course, reaffirming her decision to pursue this newfound passion. Speaking to The Lovepost, she explained her enthusiasm.
“When I did my free diving course, it reminded me of my trip to Bali. It increased my attraction and from that moment, I knew this was where I wanted to be, to teach and share my knowledge with the world.”
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First Free Diving Instructor
After she received her certification, Zandile Ndhlovu became the first black South African freediving instructor. Although it’s an individual accomplishment, she dedicates it to the country. She hopes it’ll be a moment of inspiration and encouragement to explore the deep waters.
“There wasn’t anyone before me. How do I feel about that? I don’t know. It wasn’t a focus of mine to be the first. It just happened along the way. That said, I realized there are fears attached to the ocean. This is a moment we can use to bridge this gap.”
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Black Mermaid Foundation
The South African diver established the Black Mermaid Foundation to increase the number of black people in this domain. Representation is one of her key driving forces, as she seeks to reverse the notion that black people don’t want to be in water.
The organization offers freediving courses and trips to expose kids to water and fight the stereotypes attached to black people. She tells Women’s Health that things are gradually changing.
“I’ve seen an increase in representation and ocean-related experiences. The change is happening, albeit slowly.”
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Why the Number of Black Divers Is Low
Together with the professor of history at the University of California Merced, Kevin Dawson, Ndhlovu says that generational trauma has kept black people away from water. Both cite the effects of the transatlantic slave trade, during which slaves were drowned. The slave masters tortured their subjects using water.
Additionally, Christianity looked down on swimming or water sports due to their semi-nude costumes. The segregation of beaches and swimming pools contributed to this aversion to water. Black people were left with poor facilities and dirty beaches that exposed them to danger when swimming.
Zandile Ndhlovu is exploring uncharted waters and is doing so bravely. In a continent that has some of the best water bodies in the world, it only makes sense for its inhabitants to enjoy its waters.
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