Name: Luna Munei Nevhutalu
Home Town – Pretoria, currently Paris
Occupation – Financial Analyst,
Education – UCT BBusSci Actuarial Sciences (Quantitative Finance), currently INSEAD MBA.
Relationship – Sorry boys, she’s been hollered at, spoken for, turned her player card in.
Age – a true lady does not reveal
If the most remarkable thing about me is the people that I know, it is small wonder I have chosen to live in South Africa. This is not to say people at home are not outstanding and inspirational – they are. It is to say that South Africa sits at a particularly unique time in history and my own generation bears the responsibility of rising up to it. That makes for really cool people.
Apartheid came to a much overdue end in 1994. This means any black person over 19 was systematically denied human and civil rights and miseducated. Critical thinking was the biggest threat to the apartheid government. Media was controlled, the internet did not exist, whites were brainwashed and blacks were systematically ‘trained’ according to their opportunities in life. Rather than science and literature, they learned to garden and sew.
Fast forward and we now have a gaping hole in a transitioning society. An economy and government built to meet to the needs of 5 million must now accommodate 50. Unfortunately, when apartheid lifted, the decades of crappy education that denied people fundamental skills did not disappear with it. There remains a giant gap between what is needed and what is available. Let’s call it the abyss.
It is a sorely complex issue and, frankly, the national dialogue about it sucks. Rather than approaching it constructively, people dumb it down. We focus on the most polarizing opinions and congratulate ourselves for not being as bad as the other guy.
Amid this rubbish is a growing population of incredible young people whose commitment to do better embarrasses me regularly.
By virtue of my age and that my vehicle to South Africa was education, I stumbled ass backwards into a population of trailblazing over-achievers. My peers are the first generation educated post-apartheid. They were the guinea pigs of integrated schools and have grown up to become the first black chartered accountants, actuaries, professors and professional athletes in history.
This is inspiring in its own right, but it is their shared patriotism and sense of responsibility that keeps me in love with this country. For 7 years I have watched closely: it is near impossible to gather even a small group together without inciting a hearty discussion. Many a sushi dinner that started with upcoming weddings have erupted into heated political debates. Better yet, they always, always end with what to do about it.
I first met Luna in 2004. I had just arrived back in Cape Town to start Grad school. I re-connected with friends I made while studying abroad in 2001. It was a Skwatta Kamp concert at the Valve. I had no idea who Skwatta Kamp was but went anyways with a male friend who was dating Luna’s cousin. I had never met either of them. Luna was also studying at the University of Cape Town and working for the night as a liaison officer for the band. They gave her a clipboard.
When she came over to say hello, she stood with her back to me. I rolled my eyes. I had no interest in her cousin’s boyfriend or creating drama where there was none. I smiled through it and pretended I wanted to be her friend while she called her cousin to warn about the new girl in town.
The guy turned out to be a wankster (yes ,wankster) and was gone soon enough. Both Luna and her cousin were my bridesmaids.
Fierce, smart and driven, this is a woman on her way. Hilarious, loyal and generous to a fault, she will have fun getting there and will absolutely bring others up with her. Family-oriented, she is surrounded by the best. Above all, she has the rare quality of getting better the more you know her. Every time I think I’m there, she reveals yet another layer.
Just this month Luna started her MBA at INSEAD, arguably the world’s top business school. By now she ought to be annoyed with me. My pep talks throughout the application process were all about an African woman committed to bettering the world. Then, I sent her off to France with a collage of photos and select verses from Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech.
But here’s the thing – raising your village is a uniquely African concept. I now have a daughter that lives in hers.
I underestimate my own privileges daily. I was encouraged to be bold, be fearless, follow my dreams. I get to want for a full life, safety and security for my family and to retire with a plan. I try to do my part but it will always be against the backdrop of choice – I can choose my battles and leave any time. I don’t have to mend history’s scars or prove myself to doubters and haters on behalf of a race; I automatically get the benefit of the doubt.
Luna must balance priorities where I get to choose. She has to juggle all of these things with her responsibility to her community and country. At the risk of being dramatic – a young black educated woman in South Africa carries the weight of a fragile country on her shoulders. Embellishments aside – that is a hell of a burden to bear, but a gorgeous thing to watch.
My very closest friends take these responsibilities seriously and honour them truly, all the while having fun and looking good. Not only do they challenge me to do better, they pave the way for my little girl. I am doing my best to raise an African woman for the next generation, but sure am glad she gets to call Luna Auntie.
As for Luna, her journey to greatness started a long time ago and is currently traveling through France. In case I’m putting undue pressure,she is allowed to struggle too. Just don’t be surprised to see her shine from there to here.