An extra-ordinary granny
73-year-old grandmother Freda Phenethi of Dobsonville in Soweto is a busy artist and designer who is not too old to create and learn
A WISE author once said: "The reason why the cemetery is the wealthiest place on earth is because of people who had great dreams and visions that were never fulfilled because they failed to implement the principle of goal-setting. Therefore, they died with their potential."
The same will surely not be whispered some day about 73-year-old grandmother Freda Phenethi of Dobsonville in Soweto.
Phenethi is not an ordinary granny waiting in the pension line. She is a busy artist and designer who is not too old to create and learn.
The multi-talented woman is a Meadowlands Methodist Church chorister and a fashion, graphic and garden designer.
At the age of 56, she studied fashion designing with the Kirsten Academy in Booysens and theology with the Methodist Church College in Jabavu, Soweto.
She is currently an art student at The Design Studio in Roodepoort to refine her art skills. She specialises in craft, pencil drawing, and oil and acrylic painting.
As a little girl, Phenethi was different from her peers who played with dolls and other games. Instead, Phenethi would regularly go to work at Peelton Clinic in Eastern Cape with her godmother as she was interested in nursing.
Born in 1939 in East London, she later practised as a professional nurse for 50 years - from 1960 until she retired in 2010.
She studied nursing at Frere Hospital in East London and later worked at the Kensington, Sandton, Garden City and Flora clinics and Milpark Hospital in Gauteng.
"I had had enough of nursing. It was strenuous because of the attention that one needed to give to patients, lifting them up, especially after cardiac operations and during emergencies," she says, explaining her need to find a creative outlet outside nursing.
Phenethi is also an award-winning ballroom dancer and was second princess in the Frere Hospital Miss Golden Jubilee beauty pageant.
As an actress, she featured in the play Xhapa Goes to Town and performed under the guidance of the late Gibson Kente.
Her ex-husband Reverend McFarlan Phenethi was a member of the National Assembly in former president Nelson Mandela's parliament.
Speaking about her career as an artist she says: "I became fond of drawing when I was working as a nurse. I then decided to learn more skills in this area. At the age of 68, I began to study professionally as an artist at Roodepoort College. I did a two-year course in graphic designing and at some stage I did freestyle embroidery as well as arts and craft.
"I'm still continuing with my studies in arts and this is my second year now at The Design Studio," she says.
To shame a lot of people younger than her, she is a member of a gym and regularly attends yoga classes. She goes to the gym at least twice a week and watches her diet.
"We do slow muscle stretches that strengthen our muscles," she says.
She has designed her garden beautifully and opposite her art studio is her other creation, the koi pond.
"I designed the koi pond to de-stress. When I take a break, I sit around the pond, open some water and enjoy watching the fish play around," she says.
These are her words of wisdom to the youth: "They must try finding ways of sustaining their lives in a more creative way to break away from the demands that are misleading them such as being attracted to drugs."
As part of serving in the church, she and her team counsel people who are involved in substance abuse, drugs, gambling and domestic abuse.
"We do spiritual counselling on HIV/Aids, socio-economic problems, and promoting peace initiatives," she says.
"God created us in his own image, and as artists we are God's co-creators."