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Marzahn realised early on that the rat race was not for her. Her vibrant, fun-loving personality and passion for people and nature necessitated a different career path than that of most journalists who thrive in newsrooms and corporate offices.
Although her talent enabled her to ride the crest of success, her feet were itching for the freedom of travel and to march to the beat of her own drum.
Being a free spirit has not stopped her from achieving an impressive resumé.
She was awarded a Media24 Legends Award for freelance photography in 2018 and an ATKV Veertjie award for the best lifestyle article in 2010 when she chronicled her experiences on the Machu Picchu trail through writing and photos.
Marzahn was also appointed editor of Media24’s Beeld Jip youth newspaper early on in her career.
Leaving the concrete jungle
“While working at Beeld and Beeld Jip, I was convinced that there could not be anything better. The youth publication had a television show and I participated in rock music shows and festivals and basked in the glitz and glamour of it.”
But then, after three years at the publication, she seized the opportunity to work as senior travel and lifestyle journalist for Beeld and Media24. This rekindled the dream of a life of travel that had started after her Wimbledon trip.
She loved the freedom and independence it offered. “I met wonderful people and got to tell their stories. It was at this time that I also started focusing more on photography.”
Marzahn left her secure job and started her globe-trotting, visiting Austria, Cambodia, Korea, Thailand and many other countries.“I also got the opportunity to work at a five-star resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was the number one female tennis player on the island and visited and played against other players on the other islands, Maui, Kauai and Oahu.”
She returned to South Africa permanently (at least for now) in 2016. Although she is settling on familiar soil, she continuous to live her passion for journalism, photography and tennis through her freelance work and coaching at the Fresnaye Tennis Club in Cape Town. She also plays in the tennis league for them.
In addition, Marzahn qualified as a tour guide in 2017 and is the host of an Airbnb in Gardens in Cape Town where she now lives.
“I spend many hours on the road as tour guide and tour operator in the Western Cape. I listen and observe everywhere I go because the journalist in me is always looking for a story. Who knows where it will take me, maybe I will have to put on my international travelling shoes again one of these days…”
The word wanderlust takes on a deeper meaning in the life and work of NWU alumna Marzahn Botha.
Her passport’s kaleidoscope of stamps bears witness to the nearly 50 countries this award-winning photojournalist has visited and documented since starting her career.
Days of friends, fun and sweat
Marzahn says she was a typical student in her days as resident of the Wag-‘n-bietjie residence.
“I always believed that a university education is the road to the natural discovery of life and its purpose. That is why I made a lot of time for socialising.
“I fostered wonderful friendships in my time at varsity. To this day we are still a tight-knit group of friends who, although we are all scattered around the world, have a reunion every year.”
Her student days were filled with many different interests. She served on the Student Recreational Committee, wrote articles for the student newspaper, Die Wapad, and found time to pursue her passion, tennis, in the university’s first team.
She worked at the Akker Koffiehuis restaurant on the Bult, sometimes taking on extra shifts in order to save money for a trip to visit friends in London. One of her dreams came true when her friends took her to the Wimbledon tennis championships.
She also visited Scotland, the Netherlands and France on different occasions. “I knew that these trips were only the beginning of many more.”
“My family, especially Zetta, my mother, brother Gert, and partner Elrie, are my muses. They support and inspire me to live life to the fullest.”
The journey started in a small town
She grew up in the small town of Welverdiend near Carletonville, where a “simpler” way of life formed her character and love for people.
The family moved to Potchefstroom as she started high school, but the maize fields and people of the area, as well as her father’s diamond diggings in the nearby Rysmierbult, ensured that she never felt far away from her roots.
It was in Potchefstroom at the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education where she learned the craft of journalism. Marzahn completed a BBK degree between 1999 and 2003 and a master’s degree in 2005.
“At first I was interested in the weird and whacky world of tabloid journalism.
“The tabloids were taking off on a large scale in South Africa and although I never wanted to be a tabloid journalist, I worked as part of an internship and master’s studies in the field.
“I liked the wordplay in the articles and the difference it made in communities by holding people accountable.”
This initial interest dwindled as she pursued other interests and got the opportunity to work in the field.
Marzahn worked at various publications, including Maksiman, the Potchefstroom Herald, Daily Sun and Beeld.
Marzahn Botha’s photos have not only won her awards but also led to a publishing contract. (All photos: Marzahn Botha)
Home is where the heart is
“I sometimes get disgruntled by all the bad things that are happening in South Africa at the moment, but realise that there is no other place where I can laugh from the depths of my tummy like here.
“I love my culture and to see foreigners appreciate our friendliness and hospitality.
“The feedback I get from them is that they adore us ‘crazy South Africans’ and has a special admiration for the Afrikaans language. It makes South Africans a hit wherever we go – I have seen this many times over again.”
NWU & U