Born in Gqeberha (previously known as Port Elizabeth) and schooled in the Eastern Cape, Olwethu Leshabane now calls Johannesburg home. A media entrepreneur and an activist for change – she founded the Red Wings Project, a women's sanitation advocacy NPO – she's also a mother of three. Her online platform Art of Superwoman showcases her talents and the power of women to nurture and create change (and it's where you'll find her podcast, The Sit Down). On Aug 6, 2023, she brings together an incredible line-up of women for Phenomenal Women at Nirox Sculpture Park. Of course, this made us want to know more.
"Ambition brought me to Joburg. The career opportunities, diverse cultures, entertainment scene, and social opportunities keep me here."
Tell us about your latest project, Phenomenal Women?
It's an immersive experience of talent, unity and celebration of women's contributions to family, society and the arts. AusTebza 'The Bass Queen' Sedumedi, known for her musical prowess and passion for empowering women, will host an extraordinary line-up of singers, poets and instrumentalists in the Nirox Artist Residence.
What are you most excited to showcase there?
The specially curated music and storytelling by AusTebza, and the food! Prepare to be captivated by the diverse talents of these phenomenal artists as they showcase their creativity and celebrate the spirit of womanhood.
You are a champion of women and an advocate for young women. What do you think is the biggest obstacle in the way of women?
I think gender inequality, safety and security, and discrimination. These aspects manifest in various ways within our society.
What led you to start the Red Wings Project?
I was visiting [the place] where our domestic assistant lived, and she told me about her next-door neighbour who had beaten up her granddaughter. This was an old lady whose children had left her with their children to raise. She didn’t have the means to purchase new underwear for the girl children as they were getting older, and one of the children stole underwear from the neighbour's line because she had started her first period and soiled her panties. The Red Wings Project was born to address the education gap around periods and to supply menstrual products to some of the most underserved communities.
What drives you?
My dreams and goals, and the desire to make a difference.
Nirox seems to be the site of a new cultural movement. What made you choose to bring your project there?
Nirox Sculpture Park is a stunning venue with the most beautiful landscape and art. It is also so family-friendly. I’m [also] drawn to the comfort and safety of the site. We chose Nirox because of its reputation, uniqueness and the way they are set apart in the kind of events we can curate there.
What brought you to Joburg or what makes you stay here?
Ambition brought me to Joburg. The career opportunities, diverse cultures, entertainment scene and social opportunities keep me here.
"I love the connections you can make from just one outing in Joburg. There’s always someone to connect with..."
Where there is safety, peace, patience and love.
Your favourite Joburg suburb, and why you choose it?
[It] has to be Parkhurst for its weekend buzz, the outdoor dining options, and people-watching from the restaurants.
What three things should a visitor not leave Joburg without seeing or experiencing?
1. At least one art exhibition
2. Yeoville Dinner Club
3. Jazz at Nirox Sculpture Park
The most underrated Joburg sight or experience?
Favourite restaurant or café, and why?
The most memorable meal you have eaten in Joburg?
The meals at Yeoville Dinner Club! Chef Sanza [Sandile] is brilliant, and he couples his food with the most superb storytelling. I also love to cook for my family – so definitely my one-pot chicken or my oxtail on a bed of mash.
Favourite way to spend a weekend in Joburg?
Either out and about at a market or out in the Cradle [of Humankind] with my kids.
Favourite Joburg label, and why?
I can’t just pick one here… I’ve been enjoying Style Alert SA by Thuli [Mola], Ascend Label and Ifuku.
On a weekend in Joburg, you’ll find me…
Either at home or out chasing markets, sipping mimosas, or at Total Ninja or Bounce with my kids.
Three words that describe this city.
Lively. Diverse. Connected.
What makes someone a Joburger?
Their ability to seek out connection and their high energy.
What do you love most about Joburg?
The connections you can make from just one outing. There’s always someone to connect with.
What do you least like about Joburg?
Because everyone knows how to connect and network, it can get hard to spot a chancer. Things can get awkward if you aren’t discerning.
Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?
Don’t be flashy about your possessions or wealth, always know someone local, and stay aware when out in public.
What's happening in Joburg right now that you think everyone should know about?
A month-long exhibition of digital art by women at Usurpa Art Gallery in Rosebank.
As the mother of young children, what are your favourite family-friendly attractions in Joburg?
Playing Padel – the new craze at the moment, Total Ninja, Bounce and any market.
If you were mayor for one day (the average tenure in Joburg), what would you change?
That’s funny (the average tenure)! I’d try to get the public transport functioning for the day I guess...
Check out some of our previous #MyJoburg interviews for more insights into the city:
#MyJoburg interview with Banele Khoza, artist and founder of BKhz Gallery.
#MyJoburg interview with Lelowhatsgood, creative trailblazer and founder of the VNJ Ball.
#MyJoburg with Charles Leonard, DJ and host of 'This is Joburg' podcast.