Each of the women in the black and white photographs below has an individual story. This is the mini-story or the “Instagram” précis, which is interesting in its own right.
What is special though – really special – is the connection between each photo as you move through the series. Right the way back to the 1970s when Shan Varty was trying to hold together all the moving parts of a new ecotourism model, to today, when Thoko Godi puts in a digital order for organic vegetables from our own Londolozi gardens, there is a wonderful energy that threads each photo together, uncovering a piece of our history and reminding us of the understated force that continues to emanate from Londolozi’s amazing women.
Happy Women’s Day South Africa, and enjoy the photos.
At Londolozi, Shan Varty (right) has done everything from bake bread to fix Land Rovers and sweep floors, but she has also elevated three Londolozi camps to Relais and Châteaux status, and steered – with an exceptional eye – the décor and culture that is unique to each camp. Shan has helped to create a business today that employs more than 100 women and empowers close to a thousand. In 1999, Shan Varty and Kate Groch (left) launched “Future Nature”, an organisation that focused on wildlife-immersed education experiences, and it was out of that venture that Kate eventually created Good Work Foundation (GWF), Londolozi’s not-for-profit partner. In 2015, 75 percent of the GWF team of educators across four rural digital learning campuses is made up of women and 80 percent of its students are women (including young graduates from Londolozi, like Thoko Godi below). Last year, Londolozi was recognised as the #1 hotel in the world with the Conde Nast Traveler’s 2014 Readers’ Choice Award and the GWF campus in Hazyview won the PricewaterhouseCoopers Gender Mainstreaming award in the category “Gender and Poverty Alleviation”. These women aren’t hanging around!
Jess MacLarty started her career as a volunteer at Good Work Foundation’s (GWF) Free State project. She had a way with kids, as they say, and so was recommended to the team at Londolozi, who were looking for a children’s programme coordinator. Over the years Jess has worked with the children of guests to Londolozi, in the Londolozi preschool and – more recently – as a Ranger. Coming full circle, Jess now operates out of the Londolozi Digital Learning Campus and is working on a team that has the “small” task of shaping Londolozi into a futuristic, self-sustaining African village. Jess says: “It has always been the mission of Londolozi to contribute in a small way to the success of our country and our people. With each step forward, we want to emulate the spirit of our country and also push boundaries: become a small example of what South Africa could be.” Read the full interview with Jess here.
Lina Lamula is a proud Shangaan woman who lives by the beat of the traditional Shangaan kraal at Londolozi. She is an elder who celebrates the heritage of her people and is often seen leading the choir, crafting intricate beadwork or creating rhythms in drum circles. But juxtaposing Lina’s passion for her heritage is her latent business savvy. Well into her 50’s, Lina is only now learning how to use a computer so that she can more effectively coordinate the activities of the Londolozi Women’s Cooperative, but she is learning fast. In fact, the women on each side of this photo (Jess MacLarty and Thoko Godi) have been assisting Lina, helping her with spreadsheets, minutes and signage, but often teaching her “patience with technology” more than anything else.
In 2014 sous chef, Thoko Godi, was named “2020 Person of the Year” at Londolozi’s Celebration of Learning. This young woman (daughter of Margaret who is a veteran at Varty Camp) has completed her International Computer Driving License Core and Advanced for Word through Good Work Foundation, and is currently working on her Advanced Excel. Thoko’s determination to continually improve her digital literacy goes hand-in-hand with her need to share and explore cutting-edge food ideas on the Web (she prides herself on making the best humus outside of the middle-east). Thoko is also one of the key drivers of the Londolozi Women’s Cooperative, ensuring that fresh produce (grown by the co-op’s members) is delivered from Londolozi’s gardens straight to the kitchen. This is part of Jess and the village team’s vision to reduce Londolozi’s carbon footprint and increase Londolozi’s self-reliance.
In many ways Kate Collins (Londolozi blog editor – left) and Anna Ridgewell (Londolozi executive chef – right) are both the right women to carry forward the original luxury ecotourism vision. Anna’s seasonally inspired and organic menu (now you know the “greens” are grown in local soil) is always detailed, but the secret is that the menu is the product of a chef who is most at home at a family-run lodge. The food is thoughtful and is connected to the experience and history of Londolozi and Anna is almost always present to explain it. On the other end of the experience is Kate from the Londolozi Creative Hub and Studio whose passion is to capture stories, memories and moments (including Anna’s creations) and share them across the Web. More than that, Kate assists guests in capturing their stories too, both in the editing and the printing of exceptional wildlife sightings. It’s no coincidence that both women are ambassadors of Good Work Foundation. Anna, apart from supporting her team of chefs through various online courses, including Thoko above, has hosted fundraisers at home and abroad, and Kate has volunteered her time and media skills to adult literacy classes on GWF’s digital learning campuses.
If you have an exceptional photo of #LondoloziWomen that you would like to share with us, please email it to email@example.com. Feel free to add some words about the memory and experience. We would love to compile a series that has been contributed by our guests.
Written by Ryan James, Londolozi Blog Contributor