What do two black Nobel Peace prize winners, the late Princess Diana, Prince Charles and the championing of women’s causes in South Africa, all have in common? The one-woman force of nature, that is Carole Adriaans.
The purpose behind our BLK BOSS series is to showcase incredible Black leaders; people who have. in their own ways, impacted the Planet and continue to make it a more beautiful place. Such a person is Carole Adriaans. Carole was born in Cape Town and lived through the racial segregation of apartheid in South Africa. During this time, she began supporting and working alongside leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, developing the strength and perseverance that was needed to live through this difficult time in South Africa. After moving to Canada to raise her two young children, she continued to support the causes she believed in through her event planning firm, Adriaans & Associates, which since then, has created some of the country’s most high profile events and fundraisers.
Carole Adriaans is the essence of a love-warrior, devoting her life to telling the stories and bringing awareness to issues related to domestic violence against girls and women, access to education for girls and women, HIV/AIDS and health in Africa, fighting global poverty and providing opportunities to empower girls and women.
There is so much we can say to introduce Ms. Adriaans, but truly the most impactful and inspirational way to discover this powerful woman and BLK BOSS, is to dive in and read her incredible interview below.
UBUNTU … I am, because you are.
You have lived the life of more than one lifetime(s), How did you get into the business of event creation?
I am a self-imposed exile from South Africa, and a survivor, possessing the perseverance and strength that was necessary to live through apartheid, South Africa. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, I always maintained a most enduring affection for Africa and its landscape, language, leaders of political freedom, people, and all aspects of its cultural climate.
Event creation, management, and production to me are like telling a story by bringing awareness and highlighting a situation that needs to be told. Events I support and manage have always been “cause-oriented” and so when I see an opportunity to address a cause that needs attention, and when I am given the opportunity to assist a client who may want to embrace a passionate cause that I feel needs to be focused on, it gives me absolute joy to ”tell that story” by managing and producing the event.
My event creation was established by my personal compassion for resolving the issues related to domestic violence against girls and women, access to education for girls and women, the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and health in Africa, fighting global poverty, and providing opportunities to empower girls and women. The production of numerous fundraising events encouraged investors from all walks of life to engage with focusing on these pressing social issues affecting girls and women.Projects such as micro-banking, which provided women in third-world countries in start-up businesses enabling them to escape poverty and take control of their lives, gave me absolute satisfaction and great joy to organize.
You have worked with royalty, dignitaries, and Nobel prize winners, yet when we meet you, you are the essence of humility and warmth. How do you keep your feet planted on the ground while creating on such a high level?
Thank you for your kind words, and know that I am grateful for the incredible opportunities and creative gifts God has granted me with. I am also in absolute awe of the iconic leaders that I have had the opportunity to meet and to work with. In particular, I am grateful that I have lived in a period of life where I was able to be mentored by an incredible soul like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.He taught me the true meaning of UBUNTU – I am because you are. He has taught me that humility keeps us all on the same level and reminds us that whatever titles we may have, whatever roles we play, whatever authority or celebrity we might have achieved — is all temporary and not descriptive of our true natures. Practicing humility helps us to remember that whatever success we might have achieved in life, that we never confuse the roles we play, with the person we truly are.
You have, and continue to work with, one of the giants of this planet; Nobel peace prize recipient Desmond Tutu, who, as read in a letter from him to you, refers to you as “my child”. How does one not get star and awestruck in the presence of such an individual?
The Arch, as he is often referred to, is a towering figure in the history of South Africa and the world at large. He epitomizes courage, integrity, wisdom, and untiring compassion. He is a source of hope and optimism — qualities that are ever more important in these challenging times.
Over the years when he refers to me as “my child” or “ousietjie”, it warms my heart as they both are terms of endearment from him. I am and will be in constant awe forever to even receive any communication from him – it’s such a gift for which I am truly grateful. It has been an incredible privilege and honor for me to work with him, to learn from him, and to witness his tender compassion towards everyone he meets. This has been such a beautiful experience for me as he too has embraced the outreach, I have done to empower girls and women over the past number of decades especially through the Desmond Tutu Scholarship Fund that was created in his honor to educate female students in sub-Sahara Africa.
What is the biggest motivational lesson that you can take away from your long and storied (professional) relationship with him?
Along with President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is one of the greatest heroes of the struggle against apartheid and for social justice in Africa and around the world, so for me, it was always an absolutely overwhelming feeling when I was approached to organize fundraisers for causes he embraced.
Archbishop Tutu has done so many amazing things and has been such an inspiration world over, both during apartheid and in particular as the Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. South Africa experienced numerous human rights challenges during the apartheid era. The White-dominated government committed serious atrocities against the Black majority. A number of brutal measures were adopted by the regime to deal with political activists and other “offenders.”
There are so many lessons I have learned but the biggest motivational lesson that I have learned from The Arch is “There is no Future Without Forgiveness”. The primary objective of the TRC inquiry headed by Archbishop Tutu was to preach forgiveness in order to heal the emotions and wounds of hatred or anger that had been created by the apartheid system. It was envisaged that “one who forgives becomes a better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.” By the same token, it was also argued that “If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.
However, another incident I wish to share is his embracement of Ubuntu. I recall a very personal incident during a visit to Toronto, when he was to be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, by the Law Society of Upper Canada, in Toronto in 2020. As we drove up to the entrance of Osgoode Hall, there was a lengthy receiving line-up consisting of dignitaries and of lawyers dressed in their robes in preparation for the procession which would be taking place.
Archbishop got out of the car, and before he shook anyone’s hand, he walked around the car and went to the gentleman who was raking leaves and there must have been about a hundred onlookers in the receiving line – but ARCH went up to the man – shook his hand first. Yes, he was a Black man. No doubt this incident was such a statement to not only those welcoming him, but it has remained with me to this day.And this is how he continues to live and display the true essence of UBUNTU … I am because you are.
Although he is in retirement, Archbishop’s life represents more than a selfless struggle for justice in Apartheid South Africa; his unwavering compassion, devotion to humanity, courage, and wisdom continues to inspire many still today. We all stand to learn from this magnanimous man.
You support the arts in all its varied forms in South Africa. Who should we be looking at as an inspiring artist right now, and why?
As an art enthusiast, I’ve put my heart into creating an online gallery as a forum to exhibit an extensive and eclectic mix of visual storytelling that underlines a culture’s influence via its historical images, including the legacies of its most iconic leaders. Please visit www.art-ikaya.com.
I would recommend featuring the work of an incredible artist from Uganda, David Kibuuka (see his bio below), but there are other photographers like Eric Miller, Sumaya Hisham, who have captured the life of Archbishop Tutu “Then and Now”, and Paul Saltzman, a two-time Emmy Award-winning, Toronto-based film and television director-producer who captured The Beatles in India.You may want to feature them at some time in the future. They are featured on my website as well.
David Kibuuka: An African Modernist
In 1983, Kibuuka immigrated to Canada from Uganda to finish his studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Over the past 20 years, he has owned and operated art galleries in Toronto and Los Angeles. His loyal clientele consists of collectors from the business, sports, and entertainment communities.
Kibuuka’s humanitarian efforts have also supported a worldwide fundraising effort by UNICEF from 1990-1993. Four of Kibuuka’s images decorated four greeting cards that were sold worldwide to benefit their Children’s Foundation. In 2005, a collaboration between World Vision Canada, Artistic Canada, and Kibuuka was formed to produce posters using Kibuuka’s images for the purpose of raising money to benefit the “Hope initiative”, which provides prevention, care and advocacy programs for children and those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. Kibuuka has also worked with Rotary club – Muyenga to fundraise for clean water in Villages in Uganda (East Africa).
His virtual gallery at www.zimbecollectioninteriors.com gives Kibuuka the time to follow his passion, teaching Modern Batik Art Technique to youth in communities’ outreach programs. His workshops have been held in the USA, Canada, Africa, Europe, and in several Caribbean countries.
David Kibuuka’s work is a depiction of the elemental forms of a typical African society, a style whose influence is felt in most of his paintings. The series on display represent social structures and concepts that complete a cycle; birth, celebrations, work, death, rituals, and rebirth. The choice of media, colour, and complexity of work is different in each painting, a reflection of the myriad of cultures and customs of Africa. He is credited with creating the technique of fragmentation, a unique method of painting vivid images through a mosaic of colour and form.
David Kibuuka art and prints is diverse, as is his use of various media, including mixed media, acrylics, oils, pen and ink, water colour, and pencil drawing. Kibuuka puts his heart and soul into every piece of work that he produces and this love is immediately visible to the viewer. One cannot help but be moved by his inspirational interpretations of life.
You have a beautiful and loving family and a strong sense of solidarity towards your kin, how has this affected your life choices?
My father was a school principal, and my mother, a midwife. I am the youngest born in my family. Two brothers, one who danced for Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet for a number of years, and then danced as a soloist with several major ballet companies such as London’s Festival Ballet, The Stuttgart Ballet,and The Deutsche Oper am Rhein Dusseldorf Duisburg – one of the largest opera ensembles in the world – he passed away recently, and another brother, who was a Teacher in Canada for a number of years, and eventually moved into the technological field.
I have been blessed with two children, a son, a Clinical Psychologist, and my daughter, a Social Worker and owner of a highly reputable daycare in Toronto – they have graced me with six unbelievable gorgeous grandsons.
As a single parent raising two children during the early ’70s, it was a struggle. Of course, I found myself consistently sacrificing my own needs during this challenging time, but I realized that being a successful solo parent I had to be strong, determined, and totally committed to achieving goals that I set for my children and myself.In fact, I strongly believe that going through this made me the mentally strong, goal-oriented, confident, positive, and caring woman I am today.One of the things I tell women today is: Mentally strong women see the glass as half full and not half empty.
What in your opinion, is the advice that you would give to those who feel they are struggling with achieving their dreams?
As mentioned before, I have been blessed with having mentors like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela in my life, and I have based my achievements on the premise of the struggles they endured and their ultimate achievements in life. While being incarcerated for 27 years, and after the release of Mandela, and then becoming the President of South Africa, is truly an amazing example of what having the determination and having dreams are all about.
As a woman of colour, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a grandmother, an event designer, and as an entrepreneur, one of the hardest things I have found in life to learn is which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn. I am sharing a few quotes of Madiba, (Nelson Mandela) that reveals ways which I have followed and which have helped me to achieve my goals:
1.“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.”
It’s easy to become distracted doing things that are related to, but not core to our vision. The whirlwind of being busy can deceptively lead us to believe we are achieving something. Like many entrepreneurs, I have experienced the feeling of being super busy but going nowhere. Yet, time is my scarcest resource and I am learning to scrupulously evaluate every decision I make: will this bring me closer to actualizing my vision?
2. “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Think big. Give yourself permission to excel in everything that you do. Inspire others with your lofty goals and bold visions to trail-blaze in your sector or dimension of choice, even if it’s simple business innovation.
3. “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”
Mandela has described that a leader is like a shepherd, “He stays behind the flock, letting the nimblest go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” A good leader demonstrates humility—letting others shine and feel their value beyond measure.
4. Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison in his struggle for justice, said, “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
5. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
The road to success is freckled with failures. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again,” said Mandela.
You have created so much and lived a life of triumphs and hardships to become the person that stands here. Where does this determination to create and excel originate?
Determination is the essence of increasing your chances of being successful in a particular thing or achieving a particular goal, and it also helps one to stay motivated and continue striving towards the one thing you want to achieve.
For me, I believe being born into that struggle again of apartheid, then finding yourself in a completely foreign country, raising two children on your own – forced me to believe in myself and having determination which kept me in control and motivated to continue to keep moving forward when faced with adversity or a challenging situation. After the countless number of setbacks and challenges that appeared in my way throughout my journey – I am always grateful that through my experiences in life, my work, and interaction with much less fortunate than myself, I was given the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better and seeing the transformation happen in front of my own eyes.
Who is Carole?
In keeping with her parent’s values, Carole continues to excel at what she does professionally and serves her communities without reservation. Her desire to make a difference is fueled by remembering her parents who taught her the value of education and also of giving back to serve the larger good by helping and encouraging others to reach their potential. She loves reaching out to the underprivileged, enjoys classical and jazz music and ballet, and has a keen interest in traditional healing through trained Sagoma’s. She returns to South Africa as often as she can to visit family, work with women in rural parts of the country when possible, and visits with her mentor, The Arch.
Carole is passionately committed to diversity, equity, and inclusivity, working with Indigenous leaders in Canada, and is the founder of two NGOs — South African Women for Women and the Zenzele Development Organization. She focuses her talents and expertise on pressing social issues such as access to education, women’s issues, indigenous affairs, HIV/AIDS, and health. As well, she is committed to volunteer activities and coalitions related to the welfare of marginalized women and children in society, and survivors of woman abuse in sub-Saharan African countries.
She also worked with several other local community women to build their capacity to run their volunteer programs. Routinely young women come to Carole for mentoring and advice regarding mentoring them to establish their own organizations and career pathways, thus always going the extra mile to inspire young women towards fulfilling their own dreams.
Carole has continued to volunteer to affect positive change in Canada and South Africa, for example, one of her passionate achievements was leading a health delegation to South Africa and developed and funded a program supporting forensic testing for sexual abuse victims in South Africa. She then proceeded in hosting a delegation consisting of ten female health, legal, academic, and community services specialists. The delegation learned firsthand how their North American counterparts dealt with gender violence and HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention of mother and child transmission. The delegation learned how to implement a comprehensive Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at the Women’s College Ambulatory Care Centre.