(Cape Town) – Unless you really know South Africa, it would be difficult to understand the remarkability of Biyela’s journey. She grew up in Mahlabathini, a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal, about 800 miles from South Africa’s Western Cape Winelands.
Biyela’s mother was a domestic worker (house cleaner) and Ntsiki was raised by her grandmother, along with seven other children. Biyela, who also worked as a cleaner after high school, had university dreams, feasible only with a scholarship.
Instead of engineering, her field of choice, she was offered a scholarship in viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University in 1999, five years after South Africa became a democracy. “It was an opportunity to change my life,” she said.
Consider these facts: Biyela had not tasted a drop of wine before setting foot on campus; wine traditionally has not been part of black African culture (although interest is now growing).
All teaching at Stellenbosch was in Afrikaans, viewed by black South Africans during the anti-apartheid struggle as the language of oppression, and not a language in which Biyela was fluent. She grew up speaking isiZulu; the African language spoken in the Western Cape is isiXhosa.
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