Fort Hare’s historic women’s residence, Elukhanyisweni, meaning “Place of Light”, opened in 1941. Before this, female students lived in what Fort Hare alumnus Phyllis Ntantala called “makeshift cubicles” attached to the house of Fort Hare academic Prof Davidson Jabavu. Ntantala was one of only nine female students at the time and by the time Elukhanyisweni was complete, women were still in the minority. Today, women constitute up to 60% of Fort Hare’s student body. They are accommodated in a range of women’s residences, including this seminal one on Fort Hare’s Alice campus.

This 1946 photograph shows Monica Wilson (back row, centre) and the House Committee of Elukhanyisweni, or “Eluk” for short. The Committee consisted of (from left to right) Gaositwe Chiepe, Jeanette Sello, Violet Nikani, Beatrice Ntloko and Eunice Kuzwayo. A respected academic and staff member at Fort Hare, Prof Wilson was also the warden of Elukhanyisweni from 1944 to 1946. Chiepe would later become the first female cabinet member in her native Botswana, where she would serve in various ministerial and diplomatic posts over two and a half decades. Little is known of Beatrice Ntloko, except that she went on to marry Prof Hudson Ntsan’wisi, who served as chief minister of the apartheid homeland Gazankulu, and that they had four children. The fates of Kuzwayo, Sello and Nikani are uncertain. © Monica and Godfrey Wilson Papers / Special Collections / University of Cape Town Libraries