Photo Credit: Zandile Ndhlovu
How South Africa's Zandile Ndhlovu Is Changing Narratives About Black People And The Ocean
“When I started scuba diving, for a solid year and a half, I was always the only Black person on the boat,” she tells Travel Noire.” It’s a hard thing because then the normative of that particular space become assumed normative for you”
That’s when she started thinking about what it means to make the space inclusive and what is needed to make the space diverse. She knew a community was needed not only because of her own feelings of isolation, but after her first experience free diving with another person of color.
“I always say I don’t care where you come from as a Black person, representation is important. I remember the first time I went diving with another Black person. I was in Mozambique and the minute the operator yelled, ‘okay, diving buddies,’ I walked straight up to him,” she says. “That tells you something about sharing that moment when it feels like you’re not alone.”
When Ndhlovu reached the qualifications to become certified as a free diving instructor, she knew that would be the perfect opportunity to teach and share more about the ocean.
“I started the Black Mermaid Foundation so that real representation would be created in the space where I am not only the instructor, but I can hold a different space for Black people, especially as it relates to the fear that we hold in relation to the ocean. I wanted to create a safe space for Black people to explore, to expand, to diversify the space but also to just explore the idea of ownership and authority for oceans in communities that have no access to their own oceans where proximity doesn’t necessarily equate to access.”
Currently, Zandile Ndhlovu only offers hands-on training in South Africa but is currently working on an online free diving course that will focus on breathing, which is key for free diving.
In the next 10 years, she says she wants to see more Black bodies occupying the oceans.
“I want to see more marine biologists that are Black and brown everywhere. I want that to be normative. I want to see Black bodies being in the water recreationally, and that being normative. I want to see more representation on television that looks like us when we look at homes underwater. I want to see Black people being normalized as water people in careers, recreational and sports. That would be amazing.”
To learn more about The Black Mermaid Foundation, visit: @theblackmermaid_foundation.