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Ms Nokutela Dube (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

Ms Nokutela Dube (Posthumous) Awarded for:
Her exceptional contribution to the upliftment of African communities who were faced with oppression and social injustices.
Ms Nokutela Dube née Mdima was born in 1873. She was the first wife of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, the first President-General of the South African Native National Congress (later called the African National Congress), who together with him built what is today known as the John Dube legacy in South Africa.

Together they raised funds in the United States between 1896 and 1899 to build the Ohlange Institute (1900), to establish the newspaper Ilanga Lase Natal (1903) as well as other pioneering initiatives that advanced the course of black nationalism and development in colonial South Africa.

Her many talents were crucial in the establishment of the ground-breaking black educational institution in Inanda, the Ohlange Institute. Leaders such as Albert Luthuli were taught by Mama Dube at the Ohlange Institute in 1914.

Dube was educated at Inanda Seminary and became the earliest graduate of this prestigious fountain of African women’s leadership. She was a talented singer and piano and   autoharp player, a highly skilled seamstress, an inspiring educator and a voice for Africa in the United States of America and Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries. She received additional training in the United States at the Union Missionary Training Institute in Brooklyn, New York, between 1896 and 1899.

She is the co-author with John L. Dube of a book titled Amagama Abantu (A Zulu Song Book), 1911, a book which stands as a landmark in the development of Zulu choral music. It is through her effort as a music teacher and choral director at Ohlange that the song, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika became known as the anthem of the Struggle for African dignity.

Her example as a confident and modern African woman impressed so many young women of her time that Ms Lillian Tshabalala from Groutville, the future founder of Daughters   of Africa, decided to study in America and later became a missionary in West Africa, thus planting the seeds of modern African womanhood in distant parts of the continent.

Up until her death in 1917, Dube travelled many times with her husband to the United States to seek financial support for their work to uplift their people through industrial education, following on the model of the famous African-American leader Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, USA.

Because their school was totally independent of the Natal Department of Education, it was viewed with suspicion by the colonial authorities and deprived of financial support.

Nokutela and John Dube’s passion as fundraisers and promoters of African education was crucial in sustaining their school for over many years, which benefited black South Africans and Africans of neighbouring countries.