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Holly Rey graduates cum laude

House musician Holly Wasserfall, more popularly known as Holly Rey, has graduated cum laude with an honour's degree in Media and Communication from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She was awarded her degree certificate at a graduation ceremony held at the university's Westville campus on 1 April.

The Durban-born recording artist, who is well-known for her hit songs, 'Deeper', 'Joy', and 'You', says it was no easy task to study while touring for her music. "I had to read for my research at airports, in cars, planes and at the studio. Time management was key!"

Wasserfall's graduation was more than a triumph just for herself; it was for her family as well, as she is the first woman to have obtained a tertiary qualification in her family. Wasserfall is passionate about education and plans to go on to study for her master's and PhD degrees. "Education is the greatest tool you can give yourself," she says.

Wasserfall's research for her honour's qualification entailed investigating the representation and decoding of gender-based inequality in Uzalo, South Africa's most-watched soap opera. Uzalo is an interesting case study in this regard as it relates the story of two families, both of whom were initially headed by men and are now headed by women.

"It is important to understand how these encoded messages of empowerment are decoded by audiences, to understand whether or not they are facilitating or challenging the gender-based inequalities prevalent in society, and as a result, empowering women."

The study is informed by the continued presence of gender-based inequality in all its varied forms, such as gender-based violence, femicide and uneven pay in SA. "Gender expectations differ from society to society, and although patriarchy power structures dominate in most societies globally, the manifestations of these power structures may vary. My research concerns itself with the Zulu culture," she says.

Wasserfall adds that the cum laude result came as a "surprise".

"This [achievement] proved to me that hard work does pay off, although I couldn't have done it without all the support I received from my friends, family, classmates and lecturers."