Music is my mother tongue


You are what you play, Maria Botha’s violin instructors told her. Learning to manipulate the strings of her instrument before she could read or write, music was the primary medium through which she engaged with the world. That’s how it stayed, as Botha grew up to become a full-time violinist. Now a teacher, she’s opening a world of musical wonder to kids in South Africa’s townships.

When she was old enough Botha moved to France to pursue music. Her first stop was Paris, where she lived for several years, but Botha’s career truly took off when she started to travel. She moved all over Europe and played everywhere from historic churches to medieval villages, desperate to share her craft with as diverse an audience as possible. Botha eventually settled in Dijon, where she first felt the call to mentor aspiring musicians. She later moved to Lyon to train as a music teacher at the Suzuki Institute.

The teaching method she learnt there is based on the idea that everyone has talent that can be realised within a nurturing environment, the same way we all have the capacity to learn language and become fluent in our mother tongues. After 23 years away from South Africa, she returned to take care of our next generation of musicians, starting Muzukidz, an NGO focused on education through music. Botha is ensuring that kids in rural areas are allowed to enjoy the fruit of their innate musical abilities. And like it did for her, it could open a new world for them.