Cape Town woman enters French knighthood

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A Cape Town woman has entered the French knighthood this week when that country’s ambassador bestowed the title on her.

Cultural activist Marlene le Roux received the medal of Knight of the National Order of Merit from French ambassador Elisabeth Barbier. The ceremony was held at the residence of France in Cape Town.

French ambassador Elisabeth Barbier (left) bestowed a French national order on Marlene Le Roux in Cape Town. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

French ambassador Elisabeth Barbier (left) bestowed a French national order on Marlene Le Roux in Cape Town. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Barbier said Le Roux was a “friend of France, but also a freedom fighter who shares the values of the French republic”.

“The values that define and guide our republic; the trilogy, equality, liberty and fraternity, resonates perfectly with who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for,” said Barbier.

“This award acknowledges the fact that you are true to these values. Each and every day, you act for them. And what we recognise in you is that you are still a fighter.

“You could rest, spend more time with your family, or get big jobs here or elsewhere. But no, you stay here, among the people. You go to these too often forgotten communities and you keep up the struggle for equality and dignity.”

“In this still very divided society of yours, you go to all places, talk to people from all walks of life, rich or poor, black or white, with the same passion, and you always stay true to the core values of your movement.”

Le Roux was born in Wellington, a small Western Cape farming town, and is presently the director of audience development at Artscape Theatre.

Barbier said she uses the “arts to transform the lives of people”.

Le Roux thanked her “factory worker mother” Christina Le Roux who raised her without a father but the help of her grandmother Christina Abrahams.

Le Roux said “much still needed to be done” to unite people from colonial countries such as France and other communities.

She also reflected on how she contracted polio “as the result of the unethical actions of a white doctor who did not want to administer the vaccine to a mixed race child”.

Le Roux said her award was “not just about myself getting an award but about recognition for South Africa”.

“I’m receiving this on behalf of all the youth projects and theatre makers who are struggling to make ends meet. I’m involved in youth projects to use the arts as a vehicle for social cohesion. We need to look at our young people,” said Le Roux.

“Awards are important but it should humble you. I share this award with all people making a difference in their communities, without getting any awards. I take this award also in the name of disempowered women.”
Barbier said the French award was established in 1963.

“Since then, every year, the president of the French republic nominates men and women, in France and around the world, to receive this award for their action in favor of French ideals and values,” said Barbier.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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