1.0 In the beginning


My mother, Petronella Miyanda Dyamini was born on the 28th of August 1950 in a small Zambian village called Monze – to the Tonga Tribe.

 In Tonga, Miyanda means “Roots”. The primary root that resides underground. The main source of support and nourishment to the rest of a plant.

 In her prime and like her name, my mother supported and nourished her family and everyone she crossed paths with. Petronella Miyanda loved to travel and her roots spread from Africa, to Europe, the South Pacific and eventually to Australia.

 She defied her poverty stricken village upbringing, overcame domestic violence and single-handedly raised her three daughters internationally. Confronted by racism and gender discrimination she found a way to thrive until a fight with mental illness slowly wore her down – gradually subduing the fierce, proud and resourceful woman who was my mother.

 Today, Miyanda is in her early 70’s and suffers from Parkinson’s &  Lewy body dementia.

As I spend time with her and toegther, we revisit her life through the eyes of an adult, I wanted to share with you her story. A story of strength and determination. An adventure from unlikely beginnings, with enormous pain, a lot of laughter and practical lessons on how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons and how to cherish even the smallest diamonds life graces you.

 Today we managed to talk a bit about mums upbringing.  I asked her to tell me what like for her growing up as a child. My children want to know what life was like when she was their age.

 “we were very poor” she said, “we were so so so poor”. There had no electricity, they cooked on charcoal burners outdoors. She remembers the bright red glow of the coal as it was a good sign of life. It meant they got to eat that evening and they had warmth. She shared a side of the hut with her 6 sisters. Her 3 brothers had another hut.  They made their own pots out of clay. She read by candle light. They had a happy life despite not having much. All the kids in the village would sit round a fire and listen to stories from their grandmother. My great grandmother was also very poor. She never owned a pair of shoes in her entire life. Mum doesn’t remember being sick as a child. My grandfather had a radio which the whole village would sit around and listen to. It was shared amongst the villagers. It brought people together. they would tell stories, laugh and dance. They were happy.

Word of mouth is how they communicated between villagers or distant relatives. There was a designated person, (male) who would walk for days to deliver messages.  The local Irish missionaries gave the postman a bike and he learned how to ride it.

 She never had pets growing up. Her grandfather used to keep cats to catch mice. Every animal they owned had a purpose. My children (Petronella’s grandchildren) enjoyed listening to her telling htem about all the animals they had in the village. 

 They lived in mud hut which only had two windows and a door. The door was built from timber and hinged with wire. They only had one window to stop birds and animals from coming in. She used to be terrified of going to the toilet at night. The toilet was an outhouse with a hole in the ground.


I look at the life I now lead, in Sydney Australia, with 3 children that barely understand the concept of dial phone and wonder how a female from such humble beginnings found the strength not only to dream so big but to also carry out those dreams. How I wish she was able to see and grasp the concept of how she single handedly changed her lineage, by simply believing in herself.

Gallery 3

Gallery 3



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