Winner Africa Thesis Award 2021: Tamia Botes. 'Where Have the Midwives Gone? Everyday Histories of Voetvroue in Johannesburg'

The Africa Thesis Award committee is glad to announce that this year’s winner is Tamia Botes (MA in Anthropology, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa) for her thesis 'Where have the midwives gone? Everyday histories of Voetvroue in Johannesburg'. The jury was impressed by the way in which Ms Botes unveiled and reinstated the central yet marginalised role of midwives in everyday life in Johannesburg. 'In her excellently written thesis, the histories of these Voetvroue truly come to life', according to the jury. The award consists of a prize of 500 euros, publication of the thesis in the ASCL’s African Studies Collection and an invitation to present the thesis at an award ceremony in 2022.

This year a total of twenty seven high-quality Master’s theses were submitted to the Africa Thesis Award. The submitted theses were all based on independent research related to Africa and represented a diverse range of disciplinary fields. 


At the heart of a complex network of knowledge sits the Voetvrou - a black autonomous midwife who looks after the health of and nurtures new life in her community. She mentors others in these practices and in this way, shares her knowledge across communal lines. But who is the Voetvrou? What is her history? What constitutes being a Voetvrou? How does one come to be a Voetvrou? Harriet Deacon (1998) identifies a broad shift in power relations between medical men and black autonomous midwives in the nineteenth-century Cape Frontier. These relations were underpinned by growing racialism at legal and institutionalized levels, and effectively squeezed black women out of the practice of midwifery - hence their apparent disappearance from public archives from 1865, onwards. However, these black autonomous midwives have not disappeared.


The thesis committee nominates Eleonora Bloemendal’s (University of Amsterdam, The Netherland) thesis 'Two Sides of the Same Coin: Exploring Dualism in Family Migration. A Study of Kinship Influences on Mamadou’s Life between Senegal and Italy' as the second place, runner-up.


The ASCL would like to thank the jury of the Africa Thesis Award 2021 for their careful reading of all theses and their well-thought-through final decision: Dr ir Lotje de Vries (Wageningen University, chair), Dr ir Yves Van Leynseele (University of Amsterdam), Dr Abdourahmane Idrissa (African Studies Centre Leiden), Marnix de Bruyne (journalist), and Prof. Dr Margriet van der Waal (University of Amsterdam).


The thesis award hand-over ceremony will be held during the second half of 2022.