Kimberleigh Tommy was recently named as the new curator of a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage site.  

Wits PhD candidate Kimberleigh Tommy (28) has been appointed as the new curator of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. 

The Maropeng team took to its Twitter page to welcome Tommy on May 10, 2021. 

Tommy told Wits Vuvuzela she is doing her dream job: “It has been a long road with many ups and downs, but I am grateful to be able to say I am living my dream job where I get to see my science in action and engage with communities, school children [the next generation of scientists] and researchers from all over the world.” 

She recently completed her master of science in palaeoanthropology. Her interests lie mainly in bipedalism or researching how humans came to walk on two legs. She does this by studying the pelvis, leg and ankle bones of living humans, primates and fossil hominins, or extinct members of the human lineage, found in South Africa.  

“My master’s work focused on the ankle joint, where I studied spongey bone [trabecular bone] using resolution micro-CT scanning in order to understand how the bone was responding to different loading conditions brought on by the way different animals navigate their surroundings,” said Tommy.  

Tommy has endured many difficulties on her journey. She has worked as a waitress, receptionist and scriptwriter, to name just a few. 

“As a first-generation student, there is a massive financial burden imposed by tertiary education. The playing field is not even,” said Tommy. 

Financial strain among students is not foreign in South Africa, as was evident in the recent #WitsAsinamali demonstrations, where Wits University students protested over historical debts and financial exclusion. 

Tommy never saw herself as a curator. The idea was abstract to her. “It is hard to dream of something when you have never seen people like you in those positions,” she said. ”I did not think I would end up a scientist and curator at a Unesco World Heritage site, but I hope now other young women of colour will know their dreams are valid.”  

She is in the process of completing her PhD and is looking to focus on how locomotion and disease affect the spongey bone of the knee joint. 

FEATURED IMAGE: The newly appointed Curator of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Kimberleigh Tommy.  Photo: Provided