Zandile Ndhlovu gave up her job and trained to become South Africa’s first black African freediving instructor, much to the dismay of her family who believe, like many other black people in South Africa that the ocean is a space for white people.
Ndhlovu launched the Black Mermaid Foundation in order to change the narrative of who belongs in the water. She believes there are many reasons why black people in South Africa have an aversion to the ocean which stems back to the historical trauma of the transatlantic slave trade or the forced removal from ocean-facing homes during the Apartheid regime. Many children are told from a young age of the dangers of the ocean. The lack of money could also be a reason why so many black South Africans haven’t has access to water. Ndhlovu recalls entry to a nearby pool in her hometown of Soweto cost 50 cents, which her mother didn’t have.
By taking small groups of children from Soweto to spend a day at the beach, they overcome their fear of the ocean and at the same time are educated about the sea and the problem of plastic pollution. During the day they clear litter from the beach. Ndhlovu says the efforts of her Foundation allow them to know, “the ocean also belongs to them, they can protect it and become ocean guardians.”