Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, Symbol of Hope and Courage in South Africa

March 01, 2009
Amitabh Mitra

I saw a documentary film recently on Al Jazeera about Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, affectionately called Bara in Soweto, South Africa. Soweto remains the biggest black township and is synonymous with the struggle against the apartheid. It made me write this photoessay on Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Madantsane. Mdantsane remains the second biggest township in South Africa, situated in the province of Eastern Cape, it provides the leadership to the new South Africa.

Cecilia Makiwane was born in the Mac Farlane Mission in Victoria within the district of Alice in Eastern Cape in 1880. Her father was Elijah Makiwane and mother was Maggie Majiza. She studied in the Lovedale Girls School in Victoria, Alice. Cecilia Makiwane studied nursing and she holds the title of being the first black woman to be licensed as a professional nurse in 1908. Several honours have been bestowed upon Cecilia and show the regard with which the medical fraternity holds Cecelia. Amongst them are: a statue of Makiwane being erected in 1977, a hospital in Mdantsane near East London being named after her and the nursing tradition of observing a day of prayer on January 7 (the date Makiwane was admitted ). She passed away in 1919.

Having worked in a number of African countries, I came to Ciskei during the apartheid era. Ciskei was an independent homeland country and Mdantsane remained within its confines. The Ciskeian Government built the hospital and named it after her. It is a tertiary university affiliated referral hospital which once boasted of a thousand beds. A number of doctors from overseas sacrificed their lives while serving in this hospital during the apartheid era. Cecilia Makiwane Hospital remains a symbol of hope as it is the symbol of anti apartheid struggle, courage and catering to thousands of patients till this day


Sunrise at Mdantsane

The sculpture of Cecilia Makiwane

With nurses in traditional  dress

Patients being air transported from remote areas

Flying Medics of Mdantsane

Indigenous plants and flowers within the hospital campus

An indigenous flowery plant

An orthopaedic surgeon in a busy hospital in East London, South Africa, I actually belong to Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, its long summers and hectic politics. I edit a print poetry journal called 'A Hudson View' and a journal on African arts called 'Inyathi' and dream of going back to Gwalior.
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