Awodwa Nkangana, 12, from Langa challenges body stereotypes through martial arts. BRENDAN MAGAAR African News Agency (ANA)
Awodwa Nkangana, 12, from Langa challenges body stereotypes through martial arts. BRENDAN MAGAAR African News Agency (ANA)

Karate kid Awodwa challenges sterotypes one belt at a time

By Murphy Nganga Time of article published Jun 19, 2021

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Cape Town - Despite existing stereotypes towards body image and the prevalence of gender-based violence, 12-year-old Awodwa Nkangana is confronting these challenges one belt at a time, while leaving her mark on the wall.

At the tender age of 6, Awodwa, from Langa, was inspired to take martial art classes because of her elder sister's bravery, after she was sexually assaulted when she was young.

“I got motivated by my older sister after I saw how she was able to defend herself when she was on her way to school in the morning and some thieves tried to hurt her. From that day onwards I knew I needed to protect myself too.”

Awodwa Nkangana, 12, from Langa challenges body stereotypes through martial arts. BRENDAN MAGAAR African News Agency (ANA)

“This encouraged me to join the classes because I see how a lot of things are happening out there, especially to us young girls, so I wanted to be one of the girls that can protect themselves from anything. From bullying to any sort of harassment, I wanted to be able to be ready to defend myself when the situation arises,” said Awodwa.

3rd Degree Black Belt Karate instructor, sensei Mluleki Nkangana, said that it is of utmost importance for any individual to practise a form of self-defence.

“Self-defence practice boosts one's self-esteem. Nothing is more powerful than having the confidence to analyse a risky situation and take appropriate action to overcome it. Karate gives young girls like Awodwa discipline and most critically self-defence and self awareness.”

“Awodwa’s resilience is notable and of stature as she does not allow the fact that she is slightly bigger to slow her down. She rather rises above all and that is truly a good indication of her character,” said Nkangana.

Aside from karate, Awodwa is also an advocate for altering the narrative around body image. Through her karate, she continues to challenge stereotypes and aim to motivate others to love themselves just the way they are.

“My opinion on body awareness is to never say you can’t do something because of your body size. You should love your body just the way it is, and don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something because of your body,” said Awodwa.

Awodwa Nkangana from Lange challenges body stereotypes through martial arts. She stands in front of a mural painted in her honour by local artist Ras Silas Motse. BRENDAN MAGAAR African News Agency (ANA)

Having witnessed Awodwa's bravery, contemporary artist Ras Silas Motse used it as an inspiration to highlight her courage and amplify the power of public art for his street painting competition entry that took place last month.

“When I first saw Awodwa, I was intrigued by her level of strength at such a tender age. Coming from a teaching background, I understood the obstacles and challenges that she had to go through because she was bigger than the average child who does karate. However, she kept her head up high and that’s what intrigued me.”

“Through her bravery and determination, she inspired me to draw a mural of her. Especially when I saw how she interacted with other children in the community by helping them, I really wanted to do something special for her through my craft.”

“The message I wish to convey with the painting is to not only give credit where it is due but also normalise township settings and amplify township stories like Awodwa’s. I want every single time that girls and boys walk past the mural, they can identify with Awodwa because she is just like them.

“This motivates the kids to excel in what they are doing despite being in the township. Growing up in a township myself, I am living proof that my environment does not determine who I am. My career evolved right in front of my community members’ eyes and it is important that I make the children understand that I was just like them too,” said Motse.

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