The Black Mermaid

Zandile Ndhlovu was raised to fear the ocean, like many other children raised in Soweto, Johannesburg. However she faced her fears and leaped in and this defined her future.

The Black Mermaid - Zandile Ndhlovu Like many other black people in Soweto, Johannesburg, Zandile was raised to fear the ocean. However, unlike many, she leaped into the ocean anyway to try snorkeling. The 32-year-old can hold her breath for almost five minutes. She has beautiful blue hair and feels most at home in the ocean. She is, by all accounts, a real-life mermaid. She broke through cultural barriers, managed to break free from the traditional 9 to 5 job and perused her journey towards becoming South Africa’s first black freediving instructor. For those who don’t know what freediving is, it is where you use various breathing techniques to explore the underwater world, without the use of a scuba tank. You take a deep gulp of air and see where your lungs can take you. In Zandile’s words - “Freediving is freedom.” Zandile grew up in a township, she first met the ocean when she was twelve. Back then, people were taught to fear water. In 2016 she discovered how closely she was connected to the sea. While on holiday in Bali, Zandile tried snorkeling for the first time and was exposed to the magical world beneath the ocean’s surface. Upon returning home, she immediately got her scuba-diving qualification. She knew she wanted to share her passion for the ocean through teaching. To Zandile, being South Africa’s first black freediving instructor speaks to the country’s ability to dream. South Africa has had a difficult past with the ocean historically being accessible to a select few. She highlights that her achievement was an important milestone in changing the narrative around people of colour and water. Our black mermaid is part of our Free Range Humans YouTube series, which celebrates eight humans from around the world who have pursued work that has them spending most of their time outdoors, outside the confines of a nine-to-five routine.

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