Durban - As a toddler, Nikita Hermani Govender had the remarkable ability to latch onto any language including isiZulu and Afrikaans, so it was no surprise to her parents when she started singing and speaking Tamil just by listening to music.
Born blind, Nikita, who is now 9, continues to amaze her family and community.
At Tamil eisteddfod (southern region) held in Kharwastan recently, the Grade 3 pupil at Open Air School was placed first in her category for reading and translating Tamil into English.
She received second place for singing and two floating trophies - one for the highest mark for language and the other for overall highest achievement.
Her proud parents, Ronnie and Vani Govender from Shallcross said their daughter was their daily motivation.
“Nikita was a premature baby. She was kept in an incubator for a month and a half.
"From what I understand the levels of oxygen in the incubator resulted in my daughter losing her sight. We were devastated,” said Vani.
She said her daughter had always excelled and never allowed anything to stand in her way.
“She attended a crèche at the Blind and Deaf Society in Umbilo and the caregivers would speak and play music in Zulu and Afrikaans. By the age of 2 she was able to speak those languages, something that we as adults still struggle to understand.”
Vani said that at home her grandmother, Rajie Pillay, would play Tamil music and Nikita learned the words with ease.
“In order to prepare for the eisteddfod Nikita was tutored by Balan Reddy and Neerie Govender as well as the Chatsworth Tamil Movement. She did her own practice sessions after school.”
An excited Nikita said she would like to encourage other children to take part and learn more about their culture.
“My inspiration is my mum because she encouraged me to take part and go out and have fun while learning about what our Tamil culture is about.”
Dr Raj Govender, a director in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture said: “Nikita has proven beyond doubt that she is a talented young girl with a deep passion for her culture and heritage.”
Nikita will compete in the inter-regional eisteddfod from June 30 to July 4.