Sisters and best friends, Ms Sibusisiwe and Ms Dintle Masondo enjoyed raiding each another’s closets, choosing each other’s outfits, and dressing-up together ahead of their graduation ceremonies in which they both received their Honours degrees.
For her Cultural Heritage and Tourism degree, Dintle explored the need for decolonisation of the Ncome Museum as a heritage site while for her Law degree, Sibusisiwe investigated human law violations of sex workers.
Only 11 months apart, the sisters share a close bond. A jovial Dintle said the pair is inseparable, so much so that Sibusisiwe considered taking a gap-year after completing matric in the hopes of starting her university journey with her sister. However, this idea wasn’t favoured by their parents who encouraged Sibusisiwe to keep her momentum going with no breaks in-between.
Once Dintle joined UKZN the following year, the sisters supported each other, travelling to campus together and studying side-by-side. ‘We work well together. She talks to me about law and I talk to her about my stuff. Neither of us fully understanding the other’s field of study, but we’re always learning from each other,’ said Dintle.
Both sisters are deeply motivated by a need to help others, adding that their parents, Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo and Professor Sibusiso Masondo who are both academics at UKZN, had been great role models in this respect.
The proud parents sat on the graduation stage as part of the academic procession, bearing witness to their daughters’ graduations.
Dintle said she felt emotional when her mom stood up, danced and ululated while her dad took photos of her special moment on stage.
Sibusisiwe said she was gripped by anxiety ahead of her ceremony. If not for her mom, she almost didn’t make it on stage. ‘I was quite nervous about having to walk up in front a large crowd but my mom coaxed me to be brave. My fear disappeared once I got on stage and saw the faces of my parents. It was a special moment. All my hard work had led up to this point,’ she said.
With immense gratitude to her parents for their love and support, Sibusisiwe added that she felt her certificate belonged to her mother more than herself. ‘I want to give her the original certificate because I could never have accomplished any of this without her love and support.’
Kgari-Masondo said she was ‘proud and excited to have raised two strong women who are going to go out into the world, implement what they’ve learnt at university and have an impact on the community.’
Masondo said watching his daughters graduate was incredibly special: ‘I’m happy for them and for us as a family.’
Dintle’s research was born from a field trip to Ncome Museum in which she identified that the museum lacked an Afrocentric view. She believes that her research will benefit society by showing the world that ‘museums need to be unbiased when portraying history, there needs to be a balance and the history portrayed needs to be authentic.’
‘It should not only be a Eurocentric view but also an Afrocentric or decolonial view,’ she said. Besides having enthusiasm for academia, Dintle realised the importance of the tourism industry, adding: ‘Tourism has grown to be one of the strongest economic supports for our country. I want to contribute towards strengthening this industry for future generations.’
Despite obstacles caused by COVID-19 restrictions, she said getting a distinction for her research was the highlight of her study and sharing the moment with her sister was equally amazing.
The sisters have strengthened their relationship through their honours journey. ‘We created study timetables. We also had a day during the week where we would have lunch, talk about our struggles and give each other constructive criticism and feedback,’ said Dintle.
Speaking about her research, Sibusisiwe said: ‘The idea of doing research was something that appealed to my inquisitive nature. I was reading a specific article for an elective and came across a specific sentence that appealed to me which piqued my interest in sex workers’ rights.’
Her study investigated daily human rights violations against sex workers as a result of their work being criminalised. She explored the stigma associated with sex work and how it creates perpetual trauma which leads to drug addiction and suicidal thoughts. Her study also looked into the violence sex workers experience at the hands of their clients, the brutality they experience at the hands of police officials, as well as the lack of access to health care.
Sibusisiwe’s findings indicate that ‘society and the law seek to dispose or erase the existence of sex workers by allowing the system to fail them in various spheres which dehumanise them.’
‘This in turn creates the notion that sex workers are disposable. Their dehumanisation brings about a stereotypical outlook on them. My research will thus contribute to their humanisation.’
The Masondo sisters advised postgraduate students to choose a study that will benefit society, always stay focused while practising time management, and to contribute to the process of knowledge production and transformation.
They plan to pursue their master’s degrees and are grateful to their supervisors, Dr Gabriel Darong and Dr Janine Hicks.