Wits archaeologist’s passion for digging deep has gained her international recognition. 

The National Geographic Society recently announced their 2021 Emerging Explorer cohort. Wits University archaeologist and biological anthropologist, Keneiloe Molopyane, is amongst the 15 individuals selected globally.  

Katia Andreassi, senior manager of the Explorer programme, says that Molopyane was put forward by a member of the National Geographic Explorer committee, in what she calls a ‘competitive process’. 

According to Andreassi, “the committee felt that Keneiloe exemplifies what it means to be a National Geographic Explorer. Through her work as an archaeologist and biological anthropologist, and her focus on inspiring the next generation, Keneiloe is advancing our understanding of the world and all that’s in it.” 

Molopyane is busy setting up her postdoctoral research at the Gladysvale cave system as well as working at the UW 105 site, both of which are situated in the Cradle of Humankind. Molopyane says that she will use the insight of the other members of the cohort to navigate and handle big cases such as these.  

Dr Keneiloe Molopyane in a cave site at the Cradle of Humankind.
Photo: Provided

With this title, we hope she will work with National Geographic to pursue new projects, collaborate with other explorers, amplify her work to National Geographic audiences, and do educational outreach,” says Andreassi. 

Molopyane says that she will be participating in public speaking and media training courses to prepare her for a more public role. This will also teach her to use digital tools to help her with educational outreach. She will also be attending the virtual Explorers Festival in June. 

“[The Explorers Festival] convenes the National Geographic Explorers from all over the world to share their discoveries, foster greater understanding, and accelerate our shared mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world,” says Andreassi. 

According to Molopyane, it has all been happening so fast and in a short time frame, but it is slowly sinking in what this opportunity will mean. She added that she didn’t know that she had been nominated until she received an email from Andreassi at the end of April.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Keneiloe Molopyane exploring in a cave. Photo: Wits University website