Dr Keneiloe Molopyane was invited to the prestigious Explorers Club 50


Small bites

  • The recently selected National Geographic’s emerging explorer has now joined the EC50.
  • Since the club’s founding in 1904, Dr Keneiloe Molopyane is the first South African woman from Africa to join.
  • The Apollo 11 mission’s 1969 moon landing was one of many scientific expeditions and explorations supported by the Explorers Club.

Dr Keneiloe Molopyane joins the EC50 class of 2023.

Wits University archaeologist, Dr Keneiloe Molopyane, has been invited to join her second exclusive explorers club, the prestigious Explorers Club 50 (EC50), class of 2023.

The EC50 is branded as a group of “50 people changing the world that the world needs to know about”.

Molopyane, a researcher in palaeoanthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand and currently the principal investigator of the Gladysvale Cave site, was one of 50 explorers selected out of 300 nominations from across the world.

First selected as an Emerging Explorer for the National Geographic Society in 2021, Molopyane says her nomination into a second global explorers’ organisation proves she is “doing the right thing”.

“It is difficult for a woman of colour navigating the world of palaeosciences that white men and women mostly dominate. You constantly have to work hard to overcome internalised ‘imposter syndrome’. So being recognised by a second global institution such as [EC50] provides that professional acknowledgement that you are doing the right thing at the right time,” says Molopyane.

The EC50 comprises a group of people who do extraordinary things in their field, whether it is photography, conservation, science, or advocacy.

“The programme amplifies explorers from around the globe and across a wide field of disciplines that push the boundaries of exploration,” says Richard Garriott, President of The Explorers Club.

Molopyane is, as far as can be established, the first South African woman from Africa to join the club since its establishment in 1904.

Headquartered in New York City with a community of Chapters worldwide, The Explorers Club has supported scientific expeditions of all disciplines for over a century. Some of its members’ achievements include the first exploration teams that reached the North and South Poles in 1909 and 1911, respectively, and the moon landing by the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Molopyane, who was nominated to the EC50 by Joe Grabowski, the Director and Founder of Exploring by the Seat of your Pants, after she gave a virtual talk at the Women Blaze Trails Festival, says the platform provides her another opportunity to advocate the role of women – and especially women of colour – in the world of science.

“Not all scientists are seen as equal. A person of colour is often not seen as a true counterpart. It is a horrible feeling, and I would like to shield others from going through that,” she says.

Archaeologist and biological anthropologist Keneiloe Molopyane is a researcher at the Centre for Exploration of the Deep Human Journey, University of the Witwatersrand and Principal Investigator of the Gladysvale Cave fossil excavation site. Cradle of Humankind, near Johannesburg, South Africa; 4 May 2022 – Photo by Brett Eloff.