In brief


Born and raised in South Africa, Ashling McCarthy is a creative working in the field of social development and social change. Ashling began her career as a graphic designer, then transitioned into the craft development sector, living and working with rural women of craft. This led to a master’s degree in social anthropology and changed her life’s course. Her line of work has enabled a better understanding of, and interaction with, the complexities and inequalities prevalent in South African society.

In 2010, Ashling founded I Learn to Live – Ngifundela Ukuphila an education non-profit based in a rural community in Zululand. It provides children and youth with opportunities to expand their horizons, through relevant and creative programmes, encouraging problem-solving and personal accountability.

Ashling believes art is a powerful medium to convey social change messaging.

Novel, Down at Jika Jika Tavern, book 1 of the Poacher's Moon Crime Series, product shot.

Books and publications


The Leopard in the Lala (2023). The Poacher’s Moon Crime Series. Book 2. Coming in April 2023.

Down at Jika Jika Tavern (2020). the Poacher’s Moon Crime Series. Book 1.

A Rhino’s Revenge (2016). Published by Fundza (Youth Reading Programme)

Zeis, M. & Oyster, C. (2011), Encyclopaedia of Women in Today’s World (2011), SAGE Publications. Contribution by McCarthy, A: HIV/AIDS: Europe

McCarthy, A (2010), An Exploratory Study of Non-Kin Models of Care, Lambert Academic Publishing

McCarthy, A. & Mavundla, K. (2009) Craft as an Economic Enterprise: Strategies for Alternative Livelihoods in KwaZulu Natal, SEDA Monitor (page 36)

Sign of the times



2022-2023 : The Gallery, Lifestyle Centre, Ballito, KZN.

2022: The Hilton Arts Festival

2021: Talloula Art Exhibition, Botha’s Hill, KZN.

2020: First Solo Exhibition, Breakers Hotel, KZN.



2020: InDesign for Typesetting | Self-taught

2017: Design Thinking for Innovation | Coursera online studies

2015: Copy-editing and Proofreading | Writers College online studies

2013: Creative Writing | Get Smarter – Random House/Struick Publishing

2009: MSc, Anthropology | University of KwaZulu-Natal

2002: Craft and Product Development in rural Zululand | MAPP SETA / CREATE SA

1999: Digital Graphic Design | Mediatek

Corporate Social Responsibility


I founded I Learn to Live – Ngifundela Ukuphila, an education and social capital development NPO, in 2010. The organisation provides education opportunities to school children and youth in rural Zululand. Providing rural children and youth with opportunities to create a meaningful life, in which they contribute towards their community and society at large, is a key focus on the organisation.

I play a management role, working with a small team to deliver programmes and services onsite, as well as to local primary schools.

NPO: 083 351 | PBO: 90036798 | SED: 100% | BEE: 100% | Sector: Education



2019: The Paul Harris Fellow Award in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.

Client list – sample of


LEAD Associates | The War on Wattle | Documenting programme stories

Container World |Documenting Corporate Social Responsibility projects

The Development Bank of South Africa | Documenting programme stories

Centre of Advanced Science and Mathematics Education | Annual Report 2017 and 2018 (pending release)

iSimangaliso Wetlands Park | Craft and product development

Umhlanga UIP | Research paper on social action and inclusion

Save the Children South Africa and OXFAM | Success Stories

Tulane University (United States) | National research project – Supporting children in bereavement

Gabrielle Wills – State of Engagement, for the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation & Inanda Seminary School | Identify drivers of success