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Jo Menell, 2010
South Africa | 48 minutes
Effervescent, beautiful, confident, brave, eloquent and ambitious, Thembi epitomizes the youth of South Africa. Tragically, in more ways than one, Thembi came to fame through her audio diary for National Public Radio, documenting her daily life in Khayelitsha and the physical, social and emotional struggle of living with HIV. Her humor, forthright nature and inner strength enchanted her 50-million-strong audience, forcing people far and wide, humble and famous, to listen to her sound logic as the voice of a generation that South Africa’s politicians had forsaken. Despite her boundless energy and herculean courage, this gentle and incisive documentary shows that Thembi is all too human. Her desire to live, love and leave behind a legacy didn’t make her any less susceptible to insecurity, social pressure, exhaustion and the vagaries of being a celebrity.
Excerpts from Thembi’s Radio Diaries, with Accompanying Photographs
Presented by Joe Richman of Radio Diaries. “We first met Thembi when she was 19 and living in one of the largest townships in South Africa. We were struck by her candor, sense of humor and her courage. She was willing to speak out about having AIDS at a time when few South Africans were willing to say, ‘I have AIDS.’ Thembi carried a tape recorder from 2004 to 2005 to document her life. Her story aired on National Public Radio in the U.S., and in the U.K., Australia and Canada, reaching more than 50 million people.”