Cape Town Community Initiatives: Mama Yandi

Der Jenman African Safaris team sat with our mouths open in astonishment amidst the community gardens in Masiphumelele township. Heart in throats in awe of human kindness, we listened to the inspiring and empowering story of Yandisa Mazwane, aka ‘Mama Yandi’.

Originally from the eastern cape, arriving in Cape Town without a cent to her name, Yandisa was determined to plant her feet in western cape soil, rooting her future to the landscapes and its people. Her dream was to study at False Bay College, however, not realising there was a fee attached, she was refused until she could produce the funds. Yandisa found a job in what she penned to her friends back home as ‘waste management’ – picking up rubbish along the beaches of Cape Town for R35 a day. Little did she know that working with waste would change her life forever, literally taking other people’s trash and turning it into treasure.

Necessity is certainly the mother of invention when one needs to survive. Using the resources of determination, creativity and litter, Yandisa and her companions began to assemble various items from their collections on the beach. Adding a creative flair, they turned meaningless materials into meaningful artworks – soon to catch the attention of commercial craft ventures, supplying both national and international retailers. 

Realising the power of creativity, Yandisa went on to share her skills with the Masiphumele community. An unstoppable force with unbridled energy and enthusiasm, she went on to become a qualified art therapist and formed the Masi Creative Hub. Here, communities members are welcomed and taught how to channel their energy into creating artworks, releasing stress while gaining tools for daily life. By providing a safe, supportive and educational environment, Yandisa was building the foundations for a better future for all members of Masiphumelele. The creative hub has also just launched a sewing program, weaving dreams into realities through upskilling and future revenue.

Her home also became an informal day-care center for mothers who needed to work but had nowhere to send their children. At any one time, her house was filled with at least 50 community kids, receiving love, food and education, all under the care of ‘Mama Yandi’. When Covid hit, there were now thousands of children out of school, therefore out of a meal as well as out of options. Mama Yandi came to the rescue and secured funding for two containers, resources and food from donors, as well as from her community garden. The result is a feeding scheme that nourishes over 1000 children and 100 senior citizen homes throughout Masi – every day! 

Spending time in her presence and listening to her story makes you immediately want to be a better person. She has an aura of fierce determination wrapped in kindness, ready to tackle any challenge that comes her way, overcoming it tenfold, leaving a path of reparation and hope. Her attitude is contagious, spreading the idea that anything is possible, especially when faced together. Operations such as Escape + Explore und die We Are Africa bring awareness as well as funding to the myriad of programs that Mama Yandi runs, harnessing the power of community tourism and intentional travel.

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One cannot leave the company of Mama Yandi and her optimism without the need to make the world a kinder place. Against all odds, she has built a business, saved lives, become a qualified art therapist, distributed skills and education – as well as attended 7 Africa Burns in the process to share her love of creativity!

The meaning of Masiphumelele in Xhosa is “we will succeed”, the ethos of which Mama Yandi seems to embody in each and every task she undertakes. Explore the Masi Creative Hub website to become a part of this incredible foundation, started by one formidable woman, changing the lives of many.