The sacred is political

Religious text1 The sacred is political“You can’t not be religious!” is a reaction I often receive when someone asks me first whether I am Muslim, as my name implies, and then (when I say no) whether I am a Christian, which I am not either. Having found out that I’m neither Christian nor Muslim, the inquirer then often proceeds to say, shaking their head in grave concern, “You have to choose O! [They are usually Nigerian] You can’t not be religious!”

I damn well can. And I find it odd that people feel such freedom to judge my religious status. If I were to express an equivalent disdain and say, for example, “You can’t be a Muslim!” I’m quite sure I would be accused of a violation of code of conduct.

Don’t get me wrong; people have every right to be astounded by my not being religious. To be frank, I am equally astounded that anyone finds spiritual guidance from texts such as the Old Testament, which is a violent and misogynist book in my opinion. What is not OK is a culture where such interlocutors are open to express their views and I can’t state mine. Let me also say by the way, that, of course, religious beliefs are complex and deserve a nuanced approach. So while the Old Testament is a macho, patriarchal text, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on the globalisation of indifference, for instance, is in contrast highly relevant and humane.

Lest I be mistaken for one, I am not an atheist. My spiritual background is as hybrid as my ethnic one. I am a daughter of both Oduduwa and Kalevala and any other gods or goddesses who will have me. In my view, spiritual development is introspective and does not need naming. By that same token – everyone should have the right to practice her or his faith (or lack of it) freely and I don’t raise this to judge but rather to encourage a discussion about how religion is shaping African society in modern times.

We live in times of increasing religious fanaticism and a subsequent conservatism spreading across Africa and the diaspora. The consequences are dire: from conflicts in Central African Republic to Nigeria to Somalia to Sudan, religious factors are destabilising societies with rapid effect. Also, issues such as the passing of discriminatory anti-gay laws as well as the control of women’s bodies (e.g. through female genital mutilation, anti-abortion legislation, controlling what women wear and so on) are anchored in the politics of religion.

Yet despite growing fanaticism (of varying degrees) few public intellectuals are speaking out about the dangers of this trend. This is unfortunate because the less critical debate about religion there is, the more the fanatics are able to shape the discourse. Religion is a colossal part of public life and it should be subject to public debate like any other topics that we all-consumingly analyse such as pop culture, identity politics and so on. I am not suggesting that we establish a bashing marketplace of ideas between the religious and the non-religious. Also, for god’s sake, don’t conflate critical religion analysis with criticising people’s religious views willy nilly. However, it is unacceptable that religion is so sacrosanct that we don’t dare approach it.

Africans, generally speaking, are a deeply spiritual people, venerating the part of human minds, bodies and souls that has to do with the divine. I want to live in a world where this is perfectly OK. However, I also wish for a world where justice prevails, and the truth is that organised religion is a major cause of many of the world’s injustices. Questioning religion is not only discouraged in our societies, it is often interpreted as a blasphemous attack on sacredness. But there’s simply too much at risk to avoid critical analyses of religion in the name of political correctness. It’s time to stop pandering to this culture of silence and to put religious life under the microscope.

Or what do you think? Should or should not religion be up for debate? Share your thoughts below!

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

A badass case of Beyoncitis

music beyonce xo A badass case of Beyoncitis

It starts with cunnilingus. Not the “Beyoncé ” album (which starts with “Pretty Hurts”) but this review. After all, when a megastar like Beyoncé dedicates a song to oral stimulation of the clitoris in a world where the opposite is more common, an emphasis is only appropriate.
OK, “Lick my skittles, it’s the sweetest in the middle” isn’t quite as bawdy as, say, Lil Kim’s “I don’t want dick tonight/ Eat my pussy right” in “Not Tonight”, but it’s daring enough to ignite my feminist pulse.

The entire album is sexually bold for a mainstream pop album. Some examples: first of all, in the thumping and infectious “Partition”, there’s a translated to french sample of Julianne Moore (in The Big Lebowski) saying, “Do you like sex? Coitus, the physical act? Men think that feminists hate sex, but it’s a very stimulating and natural activity that women love.” Just such a thing.

In “Blow” (the “lingus” song) the male dancers appear dystopian while the women having unleashed their expression of sexuality are in total control. In fact, many of the videos conjure a badass matriarchal world where women’s sexuality has been let out of its cage. This ravenous sexuality is present even in my personal favourite, “Superpower”, which is actually a song about love rather than sex. But even here, Beyoncé and her all female posse kick off a love-riot evoking an amalgamation of FEMEN, Occupy and civil rights protest.

While Beyoncé does not, unfortunately, objectify men (and I don’t mean objectify degradingly) they are hardly the subjects either. She is. A grown woman. Doing WHATEVER she wants.

Even Jay-Z who is present in many of the videos hardly appears in full body, rather we sense him. We see his back walking down a street, his hands reading a newspaper, his lips smoking a cigar. With the exception of “Drunk in Love” where he makes a full appearance, Mr Carter is a prop for Beyoncé’s sexual fantasies. V-power!

Speaking of “Drunk in Love” much attention has been given to the offensive “Eat the cake” reference in the song, and it is indeed unfortunate, but frankly, the assertiveness in the rest of the album would make the abusive ex-husband of Tina Turner roll over in his grave. That matters.

Add to all this the sample from African Feminist superhero, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s, TedXEuston talk “We should all be feminists” in “Flawless“. Out of this world. Then sprinkle a level of honesty and vulnerability quite unlike the careful public profile Beyonce’s become known for. She is especially open in the ethereal tribute to motherhood, “Blue”, and to friendship, in “Heaven”.
In “Mine” Beyoncé sings: “Been having conversations about breakups and separations / I’m not feeling like myself since the baby / Are we even gonna make it? / Cause if we are, we’re taking this a little too far…” and in “Jealous” she explores how insecurity can harm a relationship.

A final point, “Beyoncé” contains no droning on about whether you can be a wife, a mother and a sexual being at the same time. You definitely can, it seems to say, but having it all ain’t easy. By contrast, “all” is a thorny, messy but altogether beautiful bouquet of female roles to fit in one vase.

Nevertheless, as honest, sexually mature and, yes, feminist as the album is, not to mention how perfect on the ear the songs are, there comes a point when you think, “Enough already!” and start looking through your iTunes library for some reeeal feminist shit, y’know, Fiona Apple or something.

Have you listened to/watched the album? thoughts?

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

His idea of beauty: Interview with Terence Nance, director of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Still of Terence holding Camera 1024x576 His idea of beauty: Interview with Terence Nance, director of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Are you familiar with semiotext(e), the avant-garde, “punk-rock” publisher that introduced french theory to America? No? Don’t worry, most people probably are not. But they should be. Semiotext(e) publishes books that are at times bursting with self-indulgent introspection but that often push and provoke new ways of understanding the world we live in.

I ask this because An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is somewhat like a semiotext(e) book in cinematic form. It is a film that is also a theoretical exploration of love, or, perhaps you could say it is an erotic exploration of theory. It’s an animated, acted, dreamed, framed formulation of the effects that the behavioural mask of masculinity, desire, blackness, creativity, fear etc. has on the idiosyncrasies of romantic love.

Sound much? Well it is. But it’s much in a delightful, tantalising way. I was filled with a warming smile watching the film. And you don’t want to miss the animations in this movie for the world. I’m beaming just thinking about this one scene where the talented director/writer/actor Terence Nance is depicted as a minimised cartoon version of himself in the palm of his XXL size lover. This scene is a delicious poetry about unreciprocated love.

I asked Terence Nance to share what comes to mind when he hears the following seven terms: Beauty, Africa, Love, Feminism, Creativity, Masculinity and Ambition. Check out his responses below and don’t miss the movie. It’s showing at these times if you are in London.

TERENCE NANCE ON:

Beauty – My mother, My sister, My niece, the wind, feet, ruby’s drawings, sleep, why don’t I get enough sleep? I should sleep 7 hours tonight.

Africa – How I can’t stand when people refer to “Africa” as a singular destination or place. like, “I’m going to Africa” or “Africa is great”. The continent is so vast and diverse culturally, geographically, and energetically that reducing it to a singular “place” always irks the shit out of me.

Love – Is ruining simplicity and doesn’t care what you think about her. Love is making my life more complicated. I don’t believe or trust people who say they have never been in love. I think of them as the same as people who have had the same booger in their nose for the last two months. Get a tissue and liberate that bad boy please.

Feminism – Womanism, the women around me, mostly women of colour, refer to themselves as womanists as well as feminists. Because I was just having a conversation with someone in the military about how rampant rape and misogyny are in the military, the word makes me think about how “high stakes” and essential feminism is as a worldview.

Creativity – Reigns (in an alternate universe). I wonder if everyone is creative in a world that does not value creativity. Do we not value creativity because most people are actually not creative and abhor it or envy it in the small minority of people who possess creativity? Do I live in a bubble in which everyone is creative? (I do live in some kind of bubble, the exact nature of it is yet to be determined)

Masculinity – Is a construct built by self hating homophobes. Some of whom are lovely people. Also my wife is kind of masculine but she still likes it when I carry her to bed when she falls asleep on the couch.

Ambition – My ambition is to leave the world having changed my culture for the better, and having tried my hardest to do so every moment of every day.

 

Did you enjoy the interview? Have you seen the film yet?

Find out where to catch it here

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Guest Post: Acceptance breeds solutions, or why Africa needs feminism

AngelEvansPic 1008x1024 Guest Post: Acceptance breeds solutions, or why Africa needs feminismThis is a guest post by Angel Evans.

After multiple surgeries, my dad now walks with a limp. When he visited me in New York and we toured the city together last summer, I was reminded of his ageing every time I stopped to match his pace or slowly walk by his side. It has been hard for me to accept dad’s current image: struggling along in a knee brace, weighing less than 190 pounds. I have nostalgia of how dad used to be, how easily he could carry my brother and me in his arms, or walk with both of us wrapped around each of his legs.

What if his knee never heals? Will he walk with a limp forever? Will he always move slowly and be in pain? I still cannot answer these questions, but it’s comforting to know that my father’s hardships are moments in time and not the definitive marks of his existence.

Last Father’s Day, I gushed to dad how proud I was of him; noting his strength, courage, and perseverance. I wanted to boost his ego in order to convince myself that he does not walk with a limp or appear visibly weaker. In flattering my dad, actually I wanted to hide my shame, that part of me which relies on him to feel strong.

Because I now realise that dad does not need me to help maintain his pride. He is already secure in himself. He doesn’t need my ego-boost, he just needs my unwavering acceptance.

My father’s condition reminds me of Africa at large.
Hear me out: in the same way that I’ve had to accept my dad’s ageing, I realise that Africans have to come to terms with Africa’s imperfections. I’m thinking particularly of the ways in which women and girls are treated in African societies, the violence against women, FGM, child marriages, and polygamy.

As I learned with my father, idealisation disconnects us from reality. Choosing to ignore issues that make us uncomfortable is damaging. Acceptance breeds solutions.

If more black thinkers abandoned their romantic perceptions of Africa, a better understanding of male dominance could result, allowing for a more effective dismantling of such issues in communities of Africa and the Diaspora. Instead of attributing the mistreatment of African women throughout the world solely on “the white man”, slavery and colonialism, I’d like to see more sisters and brothers assume cultural centrality (pdf), which is 1) an emphasis on ourselves as the key determiners of our lives rather than outsiders and 2) claiming responsibility for our actions.

Can we discuss gender inequality in Africa & Diaspora without pride, denial, and comparisons to a romanticized African past and present?

Can we broaden our perceptions of Africa to include a critical feminist analysis, despite the claim that feminism is not African nor are patriarchy and male dominance?

Let me know what you think.

A diaspora child, Black feminist/liberationist, and travelista, Angel Evans is currently finishing her senior year at Miami University of Ohio. She loves finding new places, learning about her people, and lately, listening to jazz. If you have any thoughts or ideas that you would like to share with Angel about travel, freedom, Blackness, and other cool things, email her at evansaa@miamioh.edu and follow her on Twitter @LaAngelEvans.

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

Globalisation, the compression of the world through cultural exchanges and innovation, is not a new incident to Africa (nor any other part of the world for that matter). Africa is interwoven in a millennia-long global exchange, where it has often lost out but also benefited from and shaped the course of global innovation to a far greater extent than it is generally given credit for.

Historically, Africans advanced the course of humanity by, for example, inventing the art of smelting iron at a time when the European still used stone and hard wood to produce hammers, knives, spades, hoes and other quintessential tools for industrialisation. Of course, many researchers in western academia can’t get over this, so there is a host of research which tries, unsuccessfully, to dispute the African origins of iron smelting…

In any case, globalisation as mostly discussed in our time: the kind of world shrinkage where a person in Fiji can enjoy a Peri-Peri chicken meal at a Nando’s restaurant at the same time as a person in Swaziland does (Nando’s website boasts that branches are “spreading like wildfire around the world”) has a, well, unique flavour in the present day.

To what extent does Africa shape globalisation, “THE” buzzword of our times? How do Africans impact world arts, culture, business and thought leadership?

Here are seven non-exhaustive ways.

onb+jbl 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

Ndani @ Selfridges

1. Let’s start with the glamorous fashion industry, where African influences are not only seen across the African region and diaspora but can also be found adorning catwalkers of the New York, Paris and London runways (Donna Karan, Burberry etc.). Inspired by Africa, designers are dedicating entire collections to Africa such as Vivienne Westwood’s Ethical Fashion Africa collection, which the world-renowned designer articulates, “is not about charity, but work”.

In June 2011, I curated a fashion show at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum titled “MsAfropolitan presents: The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion”. The event, which was part of the museum’s Friday Late series, attracted thousands visitors. Similarly, in November 2012, a Nigerian fashion pop-up store called Ndani, launched at Selfridges. The attention to African trends is not surprising; for instance, according to an article (Britain’s Surprise Shopaholics: Nigerians) in Bloomberg Businessweek, Nigerian shoppers are the fourth biggest contributors to overseas shopping in the UK (behind only China, Russia, and the Middle East).

AB 13 cr LEAD Angola pavilion 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

The Angola Pavillion @ Venice Biennale

2. Art, Art, Art. In the same month as Ndani launched, the Tate Modern in London opened “Tate and Africa”, a two-year project in partnership with Guaranty Trust Bank Nigeria that is dedicating galleries to African artists as well as discovering emerging talent in the continent.  And remaining in the art scene, at the “Olympics of the art world” as the Venice Biennale is endearingly referred to, Angola, became the first African country to win the prestigious Golden Lion Award 2013. With interest in African art – traditional and modern – reaching previously unseen heights and record prices in international galleries, auctions and homes the Angolan achievement is not unanticipated.

HOAYS IMAGE 2 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

Half of a Yellow Sun movie still

3. “For decades, Africans have produced what they do not consume and consumed what they do not produce,” says Andrew Rugasira, a Ugandan entrepreneur in The Wall Street Journal but that is rapidly changing. For instance, Nigeria is now home to the fastest-growing film industry in the world, Nollywood, releasing an estimated two thousand titles a year – much higher than the US’s 500 and India’s 1325. Nollywood movies are, however, consumed far beyond the borders of Nigeria. For instance, in May 2012, The Annual Cinema Africa film festival took place in Tokyo, Japan with a spotlight on films such as The Figurine and Phone Swap by Kunle Afolayan and the London based Film Africa festival is just starting its third successful year.

This year has also seen the premiere of Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the bestselling novel by Orange prize recipient Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that is set to revolutionise perceptions of African cinema globally.

black coffee orchestra 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

Nkosinathi Maphumulo also known as Black Coffee

4. The African music industry is an international game changer. From South African Mzansi House to West African Afrobeats, the global musical mainstream is more Africa-influenced than it has ever been.  The best example is D’banj whose global hit “Oliver Twist” reached number two on the UK R&B charts in 2012 topped only by “R.I.P”, a collaboration between Rita Ora and Tinie Tempah, another artist of Nigerian origin.

image001 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

Women MPs in Rwanda

5. Africa’s shaping the world extends, however, further than the trendy world of fashion, arts, film and music.

In politics, African countries are providing examples of gender-sensitive policy making and innovative electoral mechanisms that could be models for other parts of the world. In Rwanda, for example, 64 percent of parliament are women, the largest ratio in the world, and Senegal is not too far behind with 43 percent. Organisations such as The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) are looking to the successes of Rwanda to understand how quotas can be used to encourage gender parity worldwide.

Also, sticking to the political realm, the revolutionary spirit that sparked within Africa in 2010 ­– Tunisia then followed by Egypt, Libya, and Nigeria – has truly spread like wildfire around the world (to quote Nando’s). Most recently, Turkey and Brazil witnessed similar mass protests in their cities.

 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

6. In agriculture, Harvard Professor, Calestous Juma, reports a case of Nigerian scientists having developed a pest-resistant variety of the black-eyed pea, which is able to control insects that destroy nearly $300 million worth of the crop annually. Africa grows 96% of the 5.4 million tons consumed worldwide each year and imported, until now, pesticides worth $500 million to control the pest. The development of the transgenic blackeyed pea by scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research at Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria solves both a problem for African traders of the crop as well as global food companies wanting access to it.

AgriProtein is another example of African innovation within agriculture. It is a system which collects biodegradable waste, feeds it to flies that in turn produce larvae that are ground into protein to provide a more ecologically friendly, naturally occurring type of animal feed. This approach improves the nutritional value of meat and lowers the cost of animal feed for processors and farmers. With global population expected to grow to nine billion by 2050 (pdf) and 900 million people living in hunger, the demand for nutritious food is rapidly increasing.

nairobi financial district 7 ways that Africa is shaping globalisation

7. No discussion of how Africa is shaping globalisation can ignore some of the most exciting developments in technology. From healthcare and safety to access to information, capital and education, African “tecchies” are using mobile technology in some of the most innovative ways.
Inventions such as the Kenyan M-pesa, a money transfer system that services unbanked communities using a mobile phone app, has seen remarkable success across the East Africa region. M-Kopa Solar is a similar mobile technology application that provides affordable solar-powered lighting and mobile charging on a pre-payment basis, using the M-PESA system.

With scope for global applicability it is no wonder that firms such as IBM, Samsung, and Ericsson are setting up research facilities in the region. In June, Nokia and AppCampus, a Finnish mobile application programme, announced a collaboration with hubs across Africa further establishing the global applicability of the African “app” industry.

 

We tend to speak of globalisation as a phenomenon in which Africa is forced to adapt to global trends. Yet in truth, Africa is not only a recipient but also a key player in the innovation and globalisation process.

Would you like to add any ways that Africa is shaping globalisation? Please share your views in the comments section below.

This post is adapted from an article I wrote for WINGS Magazine.  

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Guest post: Musings of a Jamaican lesbian

Andrea Dwyer  959x1024 Guest post: Musings of a Jamaican lesbian

Andrea (left) with friend

This is a guest post by Andrea Dwyer. Contact info below the post.

Many of the privileges and rights I have as a naturalised U.S citizen, are unfortunately not afforded to my LGBTQ brothers and sisters around the world, such as in my home country, Jamaica. I love my country. She represents belonging and freedom to me. I want to go home but the truth is it scares me somewhat. I’m keeping distance because of the state of Jamaica’s “proud” and violent disdain of homosexuals.

The few times I’ve visited in recent years, and happy as my trips in many ways are, I’ve also had exasperating experiences.  For instance, while buying groceries at a market in Kingston, I was accosted by a young man for ignoring his sexual advances. He bitterly yelled,  “Sodomite!” in an attempt to embarrass me. On another occasion, while enjoying the company of friends at a hip sports bar in Montego Bay, the topic of lesbianism came up. After hearing reasons why women were gay such as, “They just haven’t had sex with the right man” I said “I’m a lesbian and you’re making no sense right now.”

Yet I have the tools to cope with such comments so they don’t get under my skin, and also I know visiting Jamaica, as an “American tourist” isn’t quite the same experience as living LGBTQ reality day to day.

Back in 2006 Time magazine pinned Jamaica as the most homophobic place on earth. In August of this year an alleged gay man was stabbed to death and his house set ablaze as his lifeless body burned inside. Only a few days prior, a murder mob attacked what (they perceived to be) two gay men. I was crestfallen when a young gender nonconforming youth was murdered by the streets I safely roamed as a young girl.

Strict homophobic laws and old-fashioned religious views contribute to the intolerance. Sodom and Gomorrah and the fire and brimstone story (18,19 Genesis) in the Bible are often cited when opposing homosexuality. Not only are the Jamaican church and law in opposition of LGBTQ equality but also popular reggae dancehall is sometimes laced with homophobic lyrics. Buju Banton’s “Boom Bye Bye”, describes, among other things, wanting to burn homosexuals like “an old tire wheel.”

It’s imperative that our president, Portia Simpson Miller, and her cabinet take action towards changing the harsh climate for the vulnerable community in Jamaica following the lead of more progressive states such as the US. Only if the laws change will the minds and hearts of Jamaicans too open to change.

I will never forget my beautiful Jamaica. I had the liberating experience of growing up there. As an adventurous and curious tomboy I spent many days climbing trees, hunting birds, and picking fruits. I grew up surrounded by family and although my homosexuality isn’t always understood my family continues to love and support me.

Jamaica, I thank you for all you’ve given me. But I look forward to a day when I don’t need to thank you from a distance. Until then, and despite the love you evoke in me, I now call America home.

Ms. Dwyer, the author of this post, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She’s a freelance writer who’s passionate about equality in the LGBTQ community particularly as it relates to people of the African Diaspora. If you would like to reach her email her at vidadwyer@yahoo.com.

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Alliance 54 to host Africa Global Women in Business Forum

 Alliance 54 to host Africa Global Women in Business ForumAs a member of the advisory board of the Africa Global Women in Business Forum (AGWIBF), it’s my pleasure to inform you of the upcoming Africa Global Women in Business Forum hosted by Alliance 54 taking place in London on 30-31 October.

The aim of the meeting is to promote financial inclusion for African women and a balance between growth and development. African women play a significant role in the socio-economic development of the continent. They produce 80% of food in Africa yet remain grossly underserved in spite of the massive contribution.

Ernest Okwudike, Founder and Conference Director of Alliance 54, said, “Even though there has been an increase in the number of women-run enterprises from 10% to 30%, they only receive 10% of capital invested. Generally, women have unmet financial needs of over US$320 billion yearly as reported by the World Bank. In Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) states that they need over $19 billion yearly. Therefore, the Africa Global Women in Business Forum’s main objective is to explore the financial options available to women entrepreneurs.”

The forum aims to promote financial inclusion for African women especially for those in the diaspora who still run businesses back home and abroad.  In a statement by Toyin Adeniji, Head of Women in Business Program at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), she stated that it is an exciting initiative and one that will add to the on-going conversation regarding growth and support to women owned business in Africa.  Also, the focus is to discuss practical solutions to the challenges that women encounter daily in their businesses, with inspiration from successful business women.

The forum will be emphasising the importance of developing collaboration between women in the continent and the diaspora to achieve common goals. It will look at the role of media in African women’s business reportage and how to build a successful brand among many relevant topics.

More information about the forum - http://www.agwibf.com/

Early bird registration currently on – expires on August 31, 2013.

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Event: An African summer festival in London

Nneka 007665 Fabricio Fenucci Event: An African summer festival in LondonIf you are a reader who is currently in London, I hope you are enjoying the heat, sunshine, rejuvenation, relaxation and enjoyment that the summer season promises. It’s been a rare treat na!

As a friend and supporter of the Africa Centre in London, I’m sharing an upcoming event of theirs that I’m looking forward to attending – The Africa Centre Summer Festival.

The festival is curated by the acclaimed artist Yinka Shonibare MBE and will take place at the Covent Garden Piazza on 3 and 4 August.

Nneka will be headlining the festival and other highlights include performances by DJ Edu, the anchor for BBC 1xtra’s “Destination Africa” radio show, Bumi Thomas, Tunde Jegede, The Venus Bushfires, Wale Ojo and the London Afrobeat Collective. Art and photography by Otobong Nkanga,  Safaa Erruas and Nathalie Mba Bikoro will be on display and the festival will also feature African films  and a catwalk show from Africa Fashion Week London.
Hope to see you at what the organisers promise to be “a challenging, provocative African festival, reflecting the progressive modernism that has emerged post-independence.”

Note – the event is free to members of the public.

For more information visit the Africa Centre website http://www.africacentre.org.uk/event/africa-centre-summer-festival/

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Winner of the “Outstanding Achievement in Media” Award at the African Diaspora Awards!

IMG 0229 768x1024 Winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Media Award at the African Diaspora Awards!I am happy to announce that I have won the “Outstanding Achievement in Media” award at the African Diaspora Awards which took place on 2 May 2013. The African Diaspora Awards (ADA) ceremony is an event which pays tribute to African success across all walks of life; emphasising achievement and highlighting inspirational role models in the fields of business, sport, entertainment, philanthropy and popular arts and culture.

I am grateful to have been a nominee in outstanding company and to win this award is truly encouraging. I remain dedicated to bringing to the forefront the voices – ideas, concerns, triumphs, icons, politics, trends – of women of African heritage. Thanks for your continued support.

To find out more about the African Diaspora Awards visit www.africadiaspora-awards.com

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Can Africans have multiple subcultures? A response to “Exorcising Afropolitanism”

dsc01181 Can Africans have multiple subcultures? A response to Exorcising AfropolitanismOn 24 June 2011, over 5,000 people showed up for an event at the V&A Museum in London titled “Friday Late: Afropolitans”. Now, packing the world famous museum is usually the function of western art and high fashion, but on this night the crowd came to listen to artists like Spoek Mathambo, taste palm wine mojitos, learn about African textiles with Emamoke Ukeleghe, view screenings of African documentaries and watch a fashion show that I put together. I’d also arranged a panel titled “What is an Afropolitan?” where we discussed such things as whether Afropolitanism is a new description of an African (it is not), a pan-African (it is not that either), elitist (depends on the Afropolitan in question), apolitical (hardly), urban (mostly) or a sub-culture or lifestyle (absolutely!).

Inspired by African and global politics, art, literature, fashion, activism, history and modernity, the term Afropolitan, which was popularised by Taiye Selasi in this article in the late noughties, has become an increasingly relevant term. It features in conferences, photo exhibitions, blogs, panels and online shops thanks to its depiction of some of the cultural sensibilities of an emerging generation. The influence of Afropolitanism can be seen in a wide range of cultural expression from D’banj’s “Oliver Twist” to ARISE Live to the launch of the Guardian Africa Network. Let’s put it this way, an Afropolitan sentience imbues many global and local African influences today. It is linked to a flourishing interest in African culture on an international scale and it has shaped public debate about African society.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), Stephanie Bosch Santana in an article on Africa in Words reckons that the Afropolitan should be exorcised (metaphorically speaking, I hope) for what she mistakenly sees as its attempt to replace pan-Africanism. Referring to a speech given by Binyawanga Wainana at ASAUK titled,”I am a Pan-Africanist, not an Afropolitan”, she argues – in a nutshell – that Afroplitanism is shallow.

What is most bothering about the piece is not this unfair interpretation of Afropolitanism but rather its reluctance for African society to contribute to shaping modern times, which, whether we like it or not are largely influenced by digital technologies and their subsequent immediacy.

Bosch Santana writes, for instance, that Afropolitanism encourages, “pan-African literature that moves via twitter and sms rather than by printing press and shipping container”. She laments – with Wainana as her muse – to what he refers to as “digital pulp” or “texts that are product, rather than process focused”. Shops which feature “kente-accented laptop bags amongst a host of other products from African designers” are portrayed in Bosch Santana’s article as markers of the unworthy Afropolitan “ghost”.

At its core, Bosch Santana’s article seems to take issue with modern-day Africans taking steps to ensure that we, if anyone, are at the forefront of selling African cultures. In fact, reading about her dislike of Afropolitanism makes me wonder which part of the contraction African + cosmopolitan she wishes to “exorcise”.The unspoken subtext of the piece is namely – how dare Africans not simply be victims, but also shapers of globalisation and all its inherent contestations? How dare we market our cultures as well as our political transformations?

Don’t get me wrong, the delivery of Afropolitanism should certainly be up for discussion, scrutiny and critique. I’ve attempted such dialogues a few times myself. In the same way that, say, hip hop is not always politically conscious, neither is Afropolitanism. What rocks one Afropolitan’s boat, capsizes another’s. However, like every other continent, Africa is entitled to have multiple subcultural movements and we should reject all attempts to relegate African culture to a monolith. In a short period of time Afropolitanism has helped to nurture more positive views of Africa, also among Africans ourselves, with its no-nonsense obligation to correcting decades of Africa being misrepresented as a “dark, failing continent.” Does it sometimes go overboard in commodifying African culture? Possibly. Does that mean it needs exorcising? No, thank you.

Pan-Africanism symbolises an idea calling for unity in the political context of post-colonial Africa. Like Afropolitanism, it unsurprisingly has links to the African diaspora. Unsurprising, because, guess what, Africans outside of the continent are Africans too! Consequently, Afropolitanism symbolises an idea which derives from pan-Africanism, albeit with its own fresh energy. Whether it’s to do with design or thought leadership or political transformation, Afropolitanism is a complement – not a rival – to pan-Africanism. As Pulitzer Prize winning critic Holland Cotter wrote in the NY Times:

At the same time they understand, it would seem, that their choices have weight. Postcolonial African art, wherever it is produced, is all but inseparable from politics. In Africa art has always played a social role, assumed moral status, a status that even physical distance …can’t erase.

And so Afropolitanism, young and cool, comes with responsibilities.

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Mobilising African Women in the Diaspora – FORWARD Conference

On Saturday, 6th April, I’ll be joining a host of inspiring speakers (see below) to address the matter of ‘Mobilising African Women in the Diaspora: Creating a movement for African women’s leadership, rights and development’.  The conference is hosted by FORWARD UK and will take place between 10.30am-6.30pm at Greencoat Place.

If you would like to attend, complete the registration form which can be found here and return to events.forward@gmail.com , and make payment through this Eventbrite link. Cost: £15 fully waged, £5 for unwaged and students.

Hope to see you there!

 

About the conference:

This conference will provide a platform for discussion, learning, skills building, networking and the opportunity to help shape DAWN (Diaspora African Women’s Network) UK.

DAWN UK (a FORWARD initiative) aims to provide a space for all African women and girls to influence and shape policies and actions in relation to their health, rights and well-being. It will aim to strengthen the links between African women’s organisations in the Diaspora and those in countries of origin.

Background:

In 2010 the African Union launched the African Women’s Decade, an initiative to promote women’s empowerment and to place women’s rights at the centre of socio-economic development in Africa. Three years on we ask what has been achieved and how can we maximise the invaluable contribution women in the African diaspora can and do offer to their host communities.

The scope of the financial investment, intellectual, social and political capital potential among Diaspora African women is a major opportunity to help realise the goals of the African Women’s Decade.

 

Speakers/Workshop Facilitators:

Chair: Seri WendohIPPF

Soheir Elneil, FORWARD Chair

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Executive Director, Foundation for Women’s Health, Research & Development (FORWARD)

Saria Khalifa, Youth Programme Co-ordinator, Foundation for Women’s Health, Research & Development (FORWARD)

Rainatou SowMake Every Woman Count

Minna SalamiMsAfropolitan.com

Patricia LamourAspire Education Group

Barbara KasumuElevation Network

Marie-Claire Faray-KeleWomen’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF)

madeleine kennedy-macfoy, Researcher

Anita KoromaGirl Child Network Sierra Leone

Suzanne HarrisChanging the Face of Africa

Mwenya ChimbaBAWSO

Jennifer Williams-BaffoeWilbaforce Ltd

Pontso MafetheComic Relief

 

FORWARD FLYER1 Mobilising African Women in the Diaspora   FORWARD Conference

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

What does women’s day mean to African bloggers?

womens day celebration in south africa painting What does womens day mean to African bloggers?

When I was seventeen, I got a job as a telephone salesperson of ink cartridges. The worst thing about the job was that I was so good at it. I was promoted and was eventually earning a serious lot of money.
I don’t know what made me a successful ink cartridge seller but I use the example to say that in a similar way I can’t fully explain why I feel good at being a woman, I just do.

What I do know how to explain is why International Women’s Day means a lot to me – it is the day that women collectively celebrate the full meaning of woman-ness in a profound, rounded, powerful, holistic and elemental way. It is also the day that we shed tears over the way that the world treats women. Today is the day when, more than any other, I viscerally understand that women’s attitudes towards life on earth, our perceptions of power and how it should be used and protected, our anti-patriarchal, anti-oppression attitude, is what keeps this world turning without loosing the very purpose of life, namely to live. Most of all, today is the day that reminds me of all the foremothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and revolutionary women that have brought the world one step closer to ending the politics of hostility.

Below are voices of African women bloggers who answered the question:

What does women’s day mean to you?

Uduak Oduak, editor of Ladybrillemag.com and Africamusiclaw.com

Women’s day is an opportunity for me to reflect on the socio-political struggles and achievements of women, particularly African women. It is also an opportunity for me to take a personal inventory and make sure I am honoring my pledge to self to use my gift of advocacy to continue to lend a voice to the voiceless, particularly African women.

Enyinne Owunwanne, blogger at Heritage1960

International women’s day is an extension of a celebration that I uphold daily.  It’s a commemoration of the strong women of our past, who fought to pave the way for the courageous women in our present, who are actively influencing the soon-to-be women of our future.  This day, and everyday, I look forward to celebrating the progress we have made, while bearing in mind the journey that lies ahead.

Fungai Machirori, blogger at Her Zimbabwe and Fungai Neni  

International Women’s Day is a great initiative to acknowledge women globally, but I fear that it has become a calendar date where we rush to hold events without really interrogating core issues at play. With the themes changing annually, it’s almost like we have a ‘pick and choose’ menu for issues, without acknowledging the chronic nature of problems and their specificity to different localities.

We are currently in the African Women’s Decade for 2010-20, but how well are we linking this decade’s demands to commemorations of International Women’s Day, Rural Women’s Day, Day of the Girl Child and 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence? Are the budget lines invested into grand events and commemorations the best use of resources?

We need to have open discussions about these questions and concerns.

Nana Sekyiamah, blogger at the Adventures from the bedrooms of African women

Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women all around the world. This includes the opportunities created for us by our feminist ancestors. At the same time, Women’s Day is a reminder of how far we have to journey for women’s equity worldwide.

Funke, blogger at Dynamic Africa

Women’s Day is an opportunity not only to celebrate the incredible contributions women and trans-women both in Africa and the world all over have made through the course of history, but to also use the platforms created by this occasion to raise awareness, in whatever way, to the continuous struggles and daily battles that women and trans-women from all walks of life continue to face and fight against.

March 8th is a day to re-ignite peoples consciousness to the importance of women and trans-women as pivotal pillars of society, as well as draw attention to the destructive systematic structures that facilitate the oppression and marginalization of women and trans-women. Women’s Day is a call to action not to be limited by the 24-hour time frame of a single day, but a continuing of the unfinished efforts and battles of days past.

Elsie Eyakuze, blogger at The Mikocheni Report

Really, women’s day should be a public holiday so that we can all celebrate womanhood. There is so much to celebrate about being a woman that when I finally came across International Women’s Day it made perfect sense. Doubtlessly this is an extension of my experience at an all-women’s college, where everything was designed to support and celebrate my gender.

Of course from an activist and feminist perspective I appreciate the opportunity that it provides to highlight important matters that affect women directly. This is a bit depressing to be frank, since the job demands a focus on the pathological aspects of gender relations. And for that reason, I tend to resent the idea that one day a year is sufficient to cram such important work into. I prefer to embrace the entire month of March for this kind of work where possible, it is the least I could do.

That said, there is a deliciousness, a goodness, a rightness and a beauty to being a woman that can get lost under the dross of daily life and the struggles that come with it. My celebration goes beyond notions of the sacred feminine, or anything political or spiritual. Frankly, it is physical-animal delight in this form of being combined with the kinship-feeling with others sort-of-like me. One day a year to luxuriate in what I enjoy about being a woman is welcome.

Conversely, I must confess that I look forward to International Men’s Day. There are times when my inner masculine energy grumbles a bit about neglect, and no political discussions about patriarchy will quiet it. And I do believe in balance. Until we can make it to International People’s Day, it’ll be just fine by me to celebrate genders in the spirit of giving joy for being alive and human in the first place. But for this week it’ll just be us women. I look forward to it.

Lesley Agams, blogger at MzAgams

International Women’s Day reminds me of the discrimination that women still face globally and our ongoing vulnerability to male aggression and violence.  It’s a day to renew my personal commitment to feminism and the struggle for women’s liberation worldwide because until all women are liberated I cannot claim to be.  It is a day to remember, recognise and honor the great work being done by women all over the world to change conditions for us and for their daughters and their sisters. The fact that we celebrate  International Women’s Day  means that I have to fight harder and resist more the efforts to keep me and other women relegated and silent in the background.

N. Amma Twum-Baah, blogger at Afrikan Goddess Magazine

It was my junior year in college, the year I identified as a feminist. Before then, I knew I felt a silent rage at the stories I heard being repeated over and over again of women’s suffering. And I knew that I had grown up with a silent resentment of my own that I inherited from home, Ghana. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on what to call this sense of injustice I felt.
Finally, it came to me in a political science class. I stumbled upon women’s rights violations in a historical context – from the practice of footbindng to the women’s suffrage movement – and I was astounded by what I found. Before the abuses of women in Afghanistan and India, there had been even greater violations of women that dated back centuries. I started to dig deeper and the more I did, the more vocal I became about the resentment I felt about the injustices. That’s when I became a moderate feminist.

International Women’s Day holds a special meaning for me because after placing an identity and name to my silent rage and confusion, this day assures me that I am not alone in the common fight for justice. It means that I get to focus on how far we’ve come as women. And while things have truly changed for the better, the fight is far from over. The fact that women can come together to celebrate wonderful achievements such as women presidents, women vice presidents, women parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, and millionaires gives me a sense of great pride and hope. As an African woman, I’m exceptionally glad to witness the positive changes on the continent and beyond. We have two women presidents on the continent. We have a woman heading the African Union Commission. We have women vice presidents, high court judges, and an African woman as the wealthiest woman in the world.

Personally, I think African women are on a roll, but the fight is far from over. Cultural and religious battles are still being waged against us, and we must continue to fight to rid ourselves of these barriers that hinder our full rise.

Spectra, blogger at SpectraSpeaks

Women’s Day reminds me of my mother–her life-long dedication to advocating for women who were often excluded and forgotten: widows, orphans with disabilities, adolescent girls. Hence, on Women’s Day every year, I find myself reflecting on the word “woman,” wondering who among us is (still) being forgotten. Is the African women’s movement working to end violence against all women–transgender women, lesbians, tomboys/gender non-conformists like me? Or are we still clinging to a narrow, heterosexist idea of African womanhood?

When I remember how my mother celebrated Women’s Day–as part of a community of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of African women, dressed in bright colors, often laughing and dancing, holding hands–I think about how many African lesbians have been evicted from their sister circles, how many transgender women have never experienced unguarded female friendship. Women’s Day inspires me to keep writing my story so that my African sisters can get to know me, and to keep advocating for queer Africans like me who are still fighting–not just for women’s “rights” but for women’s community, sisterhood, Love.

Women’s Day should be a reminder to all of us to keep advocating for each other’s right to love and be loved, even long after we’ve found sisterhood.

Adiya, blogger at Muse Origins

To me, Women’s Day is about two things – recognition and celebration. Despite all the progress that has been made in achieving equality for women, things are moving too slowly. There are still too few women in leadership positions; way too many women are still being abused in their domestic homes; too many women are being paid less at work; and definitely way too many women make up the statistics when we talk about poverty. I feel that Women’s Day is a good way to bring all these to the forefronts of people’s minds, both men and women. Sometimes in the humdrum of daily life, we forget what women the world over are going through. This day, we remember.

I hope that as we remember this day in years to come, we will remember more and more, until we never forget. But at the same time, it is necessary that we use this day to celebrate the success stories that women have had and encourage us to do even more to achieve our goal of equality for all.

Wishing you a happy women’s day!

What does it mean to you?

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Why Spike Lee was right about Django Unchained

 Why Spike Lee was right about Django UnchainedSpike Lee did the right thing in publicly taking issue with Django Unchained, the latest Quentin Tarantino movie about a freed African slave who embarks on a violent journey to save his wife.

The wife character, Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington is monotonous to discuss for hers is a shockingly flat role. Her character serves the sole purpose of providing a backdrop in a fairy tale fantasy about an alpha male.

The main characters – Django, the German hero who frees Django, the slave owners and their house slave – are equally unrewarding to unpack firstly because, in order to make comedy out of enterprise of slavery, they are so strategically depoliticized. Secondly, they contribute so equivocally in depicting slave rebellion as a myth (when slaves most certainly rebelled) that even their fictional credibility seems farfetched.

The sub-text of Django Unchained is one which reflects US race culture at large, namely the misrepresentation of slavery as disconnected from the present day. After all, what better way to disengage from continued nuisances of racism, patriarchy and exploitation culturally than by offering a token black male superhero who exists in a vacuum and white characters that are so comical that no white American today could possibly relate to them.

Having watched the movie I felt nothing less than crushed, not by the story itself, as insensitive as it is, certainly not by the gleeful director, but by the general approval it has received from black audiences.

When we respect ourselves, we act and react in ways that are congruent with self-regard. We do not accept inappropriate depictions of ourselves because we admire ourselves as we are and not out of some delusional fantasy. We don’t accept ridiculing, condescending portrayals that reinforce negative views and that function as fodder for guilt-ridding aspirations of others under the banner of “light entertainment”.

And by the way, while the movie is not a documentary and thus has every right to practice invention, it is not quite a farce either with its references to black history facts such as Alexandre Dumas’s heritage.

There was a time when a black person in the American south could be killed simply for looking a white person in the eye, let alone by rebelling against him or her. Yet many did. I shudder at the thought of what these ancestors would make of a story that implies that they did not fight for their independence, what would the articulate and determined ancestresses make of seeing themselves portrayed as voiceless props.
Django unchanined, for all its Tarantinoesque flair, ridicules the greatest tragedy in African history and I am grateful that Spike Lee took upon himself the thankless task of repudiating the slander.

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

History meets present-day in Queens of the Undead by Kimathi Donkor

when shall we three 0 1024x786 History meets present day in Queens of the Undead by Kimathi Donkor

Drama Queen (Scenes from the life of Njinga Mbandi), 2010

In my view, if Kimathi Donkor‘s painting of Queen Nanny of the Maroons was an antique, precious Tarot card, she would be ‘The High Priestess’, standing as a veil between life and death, her arms outstretched; one mercifully forgiving, the other holding a deadly sword, reminding us that when it comes to life, she both gives and takes…

To view the painting of Queen Nanny alongside five other dramatic large-scale paintings of African heroines (including ‘Drama Queen’ pictured above) who each helped define the modern world, and, who are revered as armed warrior women, Iniva at Rivington Place is showing a roughly two-month long exhibition of Kimathi Donkor’s Queens of the Undead.

Queens of the Undead is a series of works exploring female power through the filters of modernity, history, legend and myth. Each painting is simultaneously a contemporary portrait, an exploration of art history and a resurrection of an historic female commander from Africa and the diaspora. In the works we find Queen Njinga Mbandi who led her armies against the Portuguese empire in Angola; Harriet Tubman, the underground railroad leader who freed dozens of slaves in the 1850s; Queen Nanny who led the Maroon guerrillas that fought the British in 1700s Jamaica; and in what is now Ghana, the 20th century anti-colonial commander-in-chief, Yaa Asantewa.

All four warrior-women portrayed in Queens of the Undead, quite possibly intentionally, remind me in a haunting way of how repetitive history can be. Warriors. Destroyers. Mothers. Desirable women. Feminine wrath, strength and acuteness all intertwined in captivating bold scenes. The paintings challenge - without compromising artistic sensibility and subtleness – our perceptions of historical accuracy. They cause me to observe the predicament that with the ebb and flow of time, not only are the same questions resurrected but their ineffective answers too. Does a woman’s masculine side compromise her womanhood? Never. Does her feminine side compromise her humanity? Too often. Then why do we still inquire into our social existence so mindlessly? Ask otherwise, the paintings seem to urge. Re-memb(h)er.

“Until the philosophy which hold one race superior / And another / Inferior / Is finally / And permanently / Discredited / And abandoned / Everywhere is war / Me say war”

Bob Marley’s words (and also Haile Selassie’s) echo through my thoughts when I leave the exhibition. Queens of the Undead forces us to view, in a mesmerizing way, the persistent struggle for liberation by Africans, as well as the paralleled and obstinate historical battle against patriarchy by women.

Queens of the Undead runs until 24 November. Admission is free. For more, visit www.iniva.org

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Who is an African woman?

african profile at peace with the world 300x225 Who is an African woman?When people ask me what I do, and I respond that I’m a blogger, and that I blog about topics that primarily concern African women, quite often they proceed to either tell me about an humanitarian or developmental cause they are involved with or have read about. Sometimes they ask me how my blog reaches women in African villages.

They’re not ‘wrong’ to ask these questions and I do address women’s lives in rural Africa at times. However, these reactions imply that too often, the term “African woman” conjures a poor woman in rural Africa that automatically needs helping.  The pitiable African woman. The one that mainstream media doesn’t tire of depicting. The one who indeed exists – although she has more agency often than allowed in depictions of her – who furthermore is a sister to other African women,and not this “Other” that we ‘inauthentic’ African women are saving.

When such questions are posed, I find myself needing to be quite careful in explaining that women in rural Africa are not necessarily my target audience. This is foolish. It should not be offensive for me to say this! No one imagines that a European feminist blog must reach just one type of European woman. Most people who read this blog are based in urban cities, both in the west and the continent. Also, I myself being a Nigerian-Finnish, African-European, woman with strong ties to both continents, share stories and opinions that are based on my experiences. Therefore, people who read the blogs are likely to have cultural experiences that resonate to some extent with mine.

It seems obvious that an African woman is equally the farmer who lives in a village in Ghana or one who has a high-flying office job in Kinshasa. She is the Togolese woman in a refugee camp in Israel. Or the Ethiopian woman in a luxury home in London’s Chelsea. She is the Namibian/German woman on social welfare in Berlin. She is – from a pan-African cross-continental stance which this blog has – the  Dominican woman, the Brazilian woman, the African descendant in any part of the world who vests a part of her identity in the African continent.

I’m tired of people immediately assuming that to blog about African women is to blog about charity work. I’m tired of this idea that African women can only be objects of pity. I’m tired of the notion that African women can or should only interact on select topics. African women bloggers should and do write about social media, sex, literature, art, pop culture, love, philosophy, fashion, food, hiphop and more. I’m sick and tired of the single narrative of African womanhood having such impenetrable power.

What do you say? Have you had similar or dissimilar experiences?

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

photo by: kretyen

7 key issues in African feminist thought

 

12agreatmigrationhelinametaferianwwdc3september2011 207x300 7 key issues in African feminist thoughtFirstly, it is important to say that when it comes to theory, it’s more accurate to speak of African feminisms than of one almighty African feminism. Not all African feminists agree with each other–luckily, I’d add, as this would hinder deep reflection of issues such as those listed below–yet respecting differences whilst recognizing a common ground is a priority. As I mentioned in the previous post, many women might refer to themselves as both African feminists and Black feminists. (This is especially evident in bibliographies of both African- and Black feminist writing.) However, African feminist thought has an added commitment to analyses in African contexts.

I should also clarify that African feminists here, as mostly elsewhere, refers to feminists of African heritage both in Africa and in the Diaspora, and that with ‘African women’ I’m referring to women of African heritage who are rural, urban and of all social classes who live in Africa and across the globe. Lastly, the views expressed below are mine and my choice to highlight seven key issues is not to suggest that there aren’t other equally pressing and important issues or that these seven are comprehensively covered in this one post.

Al-righty, on that note, let’s start with the Big, Bad Guy.

Patriarchy
Africa is no different to other continents in the world, where whatever autonomic space the society offers the individual, it is less if one is female. Unfortunately we don’t know of a time in modern history when women of a racial/ethnic/class group were not disadvantaged in comparison to men of the same racial/ethnic/class group. We know of times (including this current one) when women of one race, ethnicity and/or class may have social advantages over men of another race, ethnicity and/or class. African feminists pay attention to the ways that patriarchy–a psychological and political system that values the male higher than the female–uses law, tradition, force, ritual, customs, education, language, labour (etc.) to keep women governed by men in both public and private life. African feminism sees that African men and women could have mutually beneficial, transformative and progressive relationships in the private and public spheres if our relationships were non-patriarchal and egalitarian. Nevertheless, African feminists assume responsibility for striving for such equal societies rather than hoping that men will someday redistribute privilege and power to create a better, more harmonious prospect for future generations.

Race
African feminist thought does not solely deal with the “male-female”-imbalance because that would leave out other factors that affect African women’s lives, one of which is racial hierarchies and the socio-politics that come along with them. In fact, African feminists tend to be well-versed in how racial politics has undermined those practices in parts of historical Africa that had complementary elements and that nurtured a spirit of mutual intimacy. African feminist writing aims to ‘undo’ the roles and conditions that made Africans dependent on their colonizers, to ‘unwrite’ the burden of a history of imperialism that spans through centuries and to give a new language with which African women and men can progress from the racialized trauma that till this present day affects women and men, albeit in different ways.

Tradition
It’s quite unpopular to criticize African traditions, or to point out that African history is marked by male dominance which African women have always resisted. Whether it is to do with the household, marriage customs, production methods or sexual freedoms, African patriarchal traditions for the most part make distinctions between male and female in ways that disadvantage the female. African women have been silenced for too long about the crimes of traditional patriarchy such as the abusive and dehumanising institution of patriarchal polygamy, widow abuse, genital cutting, witch-hunting and women’s lack of access to property and power in traditional society. That said, African feminist thought doesn’t seek to abandon tradition, as tradition also harbours a precious cultural memory and a rich legacy of knowledge and spirituality. Rather the goal is to enable tradition to adapt to its times so that rather than stagnate, it can enrich society, as customs and culture should do. Take for instance Sisonke Msimang, a well-known African feminist who here describes incorporating the lobola (bride price) in her wedding ceremony in a completely feminist way! That’s a great example of how to maintain cultural pride whilst simultaneously preserving a commitment to evolution and harmony.

Underdevelopment
Africa, according to statistical indices, is the poorest continent in terms of people’s access to basic amenities. African feminist thought honours that poverty in Africa and wealth in the west are structurally linked. The west’s continued injustice towards Africa through military intervention, resource exploitationNGO propaganda, unjustifiable debt and trade practices, and other neo/colonial practices of the power hungry has devastating effects on African states ability to cope with such factors as HIV/Aids, women’s sexual & maternal health and infrastructure development. Perhaps worst of all, is that the underdevelopment of Africa has impeded on the development of consciousness through adequate educational systems. As a result, African societies have been unable to naturally progress in ways where their jurisdiction, agriculture, intra-continental trade, indigenous healthcare and philosophical outlook has advanced to match the needs of citizens. In addition, this lack of consciousness development fuels unexamined claims like that the pursuit of gender equality is unAfrican or that homosexuality is sinful. Furthermore, poverty affects women worse than men in developing parts of the world because as Thomas Sankara said, “…women are dependant of the dependant.” African feminism seeks to enlighten that in order to develop African countries need to create social institutions that will resist foreign hegemony over African people, encourage engaged thinking and a workforce inclusive of all of its population on equally focused footing.

Sexuality
To point out the obvious, lesbians are women and homophobia and the persecution of African queer women by African states is a key issue in African feminist thought. The question of female sexuality in all its manifestations, and the control and suppression thereof, is in fact a central preoccupation for African feminists.  How do we challenge the state that pushes a rigid heterosexist idea as the norm? How do we unlink sexual dominance from sexual pleasure? How are women’s bodies made to bear the wounds of history; and of foreign intrusion and prolonged national struggles?  How do we address the psychological and physical suffering that women endure after violation? African feminist-centered thought and activism aims to query into and dismantle the mindset that doesn’t encourage the fundamental human right of ownership over ones body.

Global feminism
For feminism to be far reaching in impact, African feminists, like all others involved in the women’s movement need to collaborate with each other as we are also co-dependent in an increasingly inter-connected world. In the 20th century, African feminists were largely engaged in eliminating the arrogance and imperialism that had been imported through white-western feminism into African women’s narratives, but in the past decade or so the focus has been on ways to work together despite differences and especially to strengthen ties with Latin American and Asian feminist struggles. This pattern is in varying degrees the zeitgeist of all global feminisms, even though theory and practice are not always in unison.
African feminists need to curb (not neglect) their anger towards the negative images that many white feminists have perpetuated and focus on the resourceful work that many white feminists have produced, and white feminists need to be starkly aware and critical of their privileged position.Only then can we mutually seek to empower the strength at the heart of womanhood.

Love 
Love is something that all human beings desire in life yet it is an undervalued emotion in the worldview that shapes much of modern ideas. Using art in all its forms, for instance, to infuse theory with passion and emotion is for many African feminists a radically transformative act. Art is a realm where African feminist positions are not stated, but are symbolically represented. By creating new intellectual traditions aside of white/male academic history,  African feminists are in effect questioning the legitimacy of  knowledge production and decolonizing and depatriarchalizing minds.
African feminist thought is fuelled by the idea that love and justice are complementary to revolution and change. It is focused on healing, reconciliation, and on an insistence that the language of African womanhood, from its global position, is the language that can transform society into one where sexual, racial, spiritual, psychological and social equality are afforded. In such a society people can pursue lives with less daily micro- and macro-aggressions, less hostility and more space for self-realization. From Miriam Makeba’s music to Oumou Sy’s fashion to Nike Ogundaike’s art, African feminists are at the forefront of using creativity to express that progressive thought is not only cerebral but also visceral and expressive.

Thoughts? Questions?

More African feminist resources here.

 

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

photo by: Elvert Barnes

MsAfropolitan EXCLUSIVE Interview with Sandra Izsadore

Sandra MsAfropolitan EXCLUSIVE Interview with Sandra Izsadore

Even in a society were polygamy is practiced, with twenty-seven wives, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti—one of the greatest men to have lived—had unusually many women in his life. But there are two particular women that the Fela story wouldn’t be complete without. His mother, women’s rights champion Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti and Sandra Izsadore, his lady, and the woman who influenced and inspired Fela towards his activism, the one who “Africanized” him, as Fela himself said.

Sandra was a woman whose passion for justice and knowledge inspired Fela to learn more and to educate others. As a young woman growing up in a segregated America, Sandra felt it was important for her to be involved in creating change for black people and became involved with the Panther Party and the Nation of Islam. When she and Fela met and fell in love she saw in him a contagious strength and energy, and she engaged him into her political world whilst also learning about his African insights.

When I ask Sandra to share something about Fela that people may not know she tells me that as a true revolutionary, Fela refused to own property. “He relinquished all material things,” she says. “He employed many while he walked this earth and is continuing to do so from the spiritual world.”

I chose, however, not to focus on Fela in my brief interview with Sandra. I wanted to know more about Sandra herself and her thoughts on womanhood, on fashion, on Nigeria…

You have a song on your latest album, “Message to my daughter”. What three qualities would you advise a young woman to nurture in herself? 

Firstly, I’d tell her that her body is Gods temple. Secondly, that she should always bring respect to her elders. Lastly, to put God first in all that she does.

 You’re very fashionable! What inspires your dress sense and do you think that fashion is linked with revolution?

I think that every woman should emulate her god-given natural beauty and dress in an appropriate manner for her body and age. She should accentuate the best assets that god has given her and flaunt them in a respectable way.  She shouldn’t let Hollywood dictate what is appropriate for her, it’s about making and setting your own style, that is how you start a fashion revolution and embody a progressive message.

With regards to race relations in the world today, have we made progress since the height of the civil right’s movement? What can we do to end racial divides in 2012? 

Although we have made massive strides in race relations, there is still a long way to go. Cases like that of Trayvon Martin prove that. His case was all do to with the old guard of profiling and stereotyping people and unfortunately a vast majority of people in the world have still failed to realize that we are all in this boat together.

One of my favourite Fela songs is the one that he wrote for you to sing, “Upside Down“. What was it like recording this legendary song, which I believe was the only one you recorded with him? 

Yes you are right, it is the only song I recorded with Fela.  It was great going into the studio in Lagos, we would go in and set up for staying until the job was down. The Queens were there, The Band was there, and anyone in the house who just wanted to be there for the recording party was welcome. It was great.

Your latest album is titled “NIGERIA” and features some celebrated Nigerian artists such as 9ice and actress Dakore Egbuson. You seem to have a deep love for Nigeria, can you explain what the country means in your life? What has it taught you?

Wow I feel like a displaced Nigerian woman. In fact, I am a Nigerian woman that has been trapped since birth on American soil, without knowledge of my history or language. I am Nigerian in my soul. I am the first from my ancestral line to return to Africa, and Nigeria was the country where I first put my foot down.  I have an unconditional love for the country and for Nigerian people,  They have always shown me love and I in return have loved the people, they are very special. That is why someone like Dakore, 9ice and Omotola can show me love as I love them and the country.

Anything else you would like to share?

I would like to share more than anything else that as black people we need to stop making differences amongst ourselves. I hope I live to see the day where ethnic groups and religion have no place to cause divisions, and we see each other as brothers and sisters. I want to see boundaries crossed with love, respect, honour and value for life where war exists no more.

Thank you Sandra, it has been a huge honour and pleasure to feature you on MsAfropolitan.

Check out Sandra Izsadore’s latest album, “NIGERIA” available on ITUNES and CD Baby. I truly recommend it!

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Beyonce, skin colour and carrots

skin color project 296x300 Beyonce, skin colour and carrots

Beyonce was crowned most beautiful woman in the world by People Magazine this week and that resurfaced the skin colour topic with many debating whether the light skinned Beyonce is an accurate representation of “Black Beauty”.

The skin colour conversation is important, crucial even, for similar reasons that I think we should upkeep the hair conversation. It’s one we absolutely must keep having until society changes and there is no more need for it. That isn’t the case right now. Colourism is a problem. What we could call “Light-skin Privilege” enables black people of lighter complexions to more easily fit into the rigid boxes that society allows us to be human within. I’m not saying easily. But more easily. Why is that? This simple question should lead the query because it exposes the intention behind these hierarchies.
If we define our human value by the parameters of society, then the darker the woman the less her capacity to self-realize. If she furthermore is queer, or living in financial poverty, then there are even bigger obstacles. Why do we allow this insanity to continue?

However, whilst refusing to stop discussing and exposing the ways in which society works against or for us, we should also actively oppose that a society which we know is skewed defines our parameters of humanness.We should love our skin whether it’s mixed race yellow-brown or Latin American rosy-bronze or African deep brown or white as milk. Or red-black. Or palmoil-brown. Or ivory-blue. And so on. Skin is skin and there are endless shades of it. Some say 3000.

That said there are two things that make the topic of women and skin colour a sensitive one. The first is our collective memory of trauma. Memories that include histories of racism, genocide, shame, humiliation, misogyny, violence and so on. Whether its Swedish politicians laughing at caricature cakes of African women or French ones raping black hotel staff or male rappers saying that they only like women with light skin, these collective memories are often triggered by media, social institutions, everyday racism etc. and they pick on a psychological wound that we have been plastering and renaming and not letting heal.

However, there is a difference between being traumatized by history and being a prisoner of history.
To stop being prisoners of history we must seek to “un”traumatize our minds. To do that requires first of all that we acknowledge that we still need to decolonize our thinking, to stop being the “other” in order to become the “self”. So what if some (white) magazine says that this is what (black) beauty looks like. That does not mean that we must measure ourselves against their choice. As long as we are having these conversations the psychololgical decolonization process that Franz Fanon and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o have written about isn’t complete. We should engage but ask if our contribution to the conversation will help to complete the process or move it backward.

We can talk skin tone politics either emotionally, coming from that place of collective hurt, or we can address it from a desire to turn it up, down and around and understand it with clarity. The two need to exist but in separate spaces. An example of an intellectual dialogue about skin colour is the (1)Drop project. And a seeming example of an emotional dialogue  is “Dark Girls”. Seeming, because I haven’t seen it yet so I’m guessing from the trailer.

In 1934 Ernest Hemingway wrote in a letter to Scott Fitzgerald that the latter needs to forget his personal tragedy to become a better writer. He said:

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist—but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.

When it comes to discussions on skin color and identity, I think those words can guide the conversation. No matter the skin-colour related personal tragedies we all have, we must use the hurt, not let it use us. I hope. Pray.

The second thing that makes skin colour a sensitive topic for women is gender. Making women believe in an idealized type of feminine beauty is a business and it’s supported by copious amount of money. But if we can see the absurdity of this, it becomes impossible to engage in that debate in a way that affects our self-image.

The absurdity is this. At some point in history some of our dear ancestors decided that uniformity was the way forward. The ideal became that we should all look the same, live the same way, marry at the same age in the same format, define success in the same terms and so on.

Take for example carrots. In their original form may take any of the following shapes

 Beyonce, skin colour and carrots

www.bompippy.com

 

But with some help from modern day farming technology most carrots look like this.

carrots anyone  300x201 Beyonce, skin colour and carrots

Women, who are also human beings, nowadays look something like this in their thirties

 

WOMEN+DIVERSE+GROUP Beyonce, skin colour and carrots

Women, as commodities in this same system of endless consumerism and infinite self-improvement, at any age, of any race, strive to look like

mackie face from my collection 300x224 Beyonce, skin colour and carrots

Why? Because Barbie-girl sells. She sells music. She sells movies. She sells cars , she sells perfume and she even promotes animal rights. So every year, recession or no recession, plastic surgery stats keep increasing giving more and more clout to the singular comatose feminine ideal.

This may all sound quite obvious but to be honest most of the skin colour debates I read makes me think that we actually need to go back to basics. We need to find a way that we can neither sweep this conversation under the carpet nor attach to it even more trauma for future generations. What do you think? Is there a progressive way to discuss the topic?

 

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Going to see “Belong” by Bola Agbaje

belong by bola agbaje 06 Going to see Belong by Bola Agbaje

Belong by Bola Agbaje

Supporters keh. Forget this country. How many year have you lived here?… Your English is better than the Queen’s and they still call you…

I’m looking forward to my upcoming theatre date with bloggers @IamIola and @IamNicholeBlack. We are heading to the Royal Court Theatre to see the new play by Bola Agbaje, writer of the award-winning “Gone Too Far” amongst others. A co-production with Tiata Fahodzi,

“Belong” is a satirical play that questions our notion of home, a theme that I am very interested in.

The main character Kayode played by Lucian Msamati, is a British MP, who following a controversial defeat at the polls, returns to Nigeria and enters a political battle that makes him question what he believes and where he truly belongs. Sound familiar??

 

Belong runs at Royal Court Theatre from 26th April to 26th May.

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2012 – Exploring Afro-Italian connections

nigerian national theater fancy print 300x199 Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2012   Exploring Afro Italian connectionsI’m looking forward to attending the LAGOS BLACK HERITAGE FESTIVAL this week, which this year is mapping out the black African presence in the Mediterranean with a cultural exploration of the Afro-Italian connection.

Nigerian connections with Italy appear to go back a long way! Amongst other things the festival will highlight similarities between the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, and the Yoruba Masked comedy of stereotypes of the egungun (or ancestral masquerade). It will explore the rumour that the character of Arlecchino (Harlequin) was an import from the West African coast in the contemporary working of Goldoni’s play by the Marco Martinelli Afro-Italian theatre group…Similarities between Italian and Nigerian family attitudes will be explored as will xenophobia and colonial memory. Hypothetical questions will be posed, how would Haile Selaise and Ethiopia have fared under Berlusconi? (I dare not imagine)Lagos 20120402 00448 300x225 Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2012   Exploring Afro Italian connections

Anyway, the Colloquium will set up the historical and theoretical framework for such topical issues that engage both societies on screen, stage, art, photography, poetry, cuisine (pounded yam/polenta; kolanut/espresso discourse?), fashion and interior.

I’m especially looking forward to the poetry night on the theme of “Migrations” featuring fifteen Italo-African poets and fifteen poets based in Africa, punctuated by vintage Italian and Nigerian music snatches.

 

 

 

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

photo by: Tomathon

Speaking about race, sisterhood and citizenship at BE.BOP 2012 Berlin

cropped skin thing Speaking about race, sisterhood and citizenship at BE.BOP 2012 Berlin

I’m participating in BE.BOP 2012- BLACK EUROPE BODY POLITICS, an international screening program and transdisciplinary roundtable on Black European citizenship in connection to recent moving image and performative practices. My presentation is on race, sisterhood and citizenship.

BE.BOP 2012 aims at facilitating a long-term exchange between specialists and time-based art practitioners of different contexts and backgrounds of the Black European Diaspora. The idea is to create dialogues across several fields such as history, legal studies, art and political activism etc. The transdisciplinary roundtable will be accompanied by a screening program and its content will be published in the form of a book, creating a visible platform that will contribute to current debates on global citizenship.

The event is curated by author and critic Alanna Lockward in collaboration with Allianz Kulturstiftung and Ballhaus Naunynstrasse. Participants are:

Ndèye Andújar (Spain) / José Manuel Barreto (England) /Artwell Cain (Holland) Teresa María Díaz Nerio (Holland) / Simmi Dullay (South Africa) / Jeannette Ehlers (Denmark) / Fatima El Tayeb (Germany) / Ylva Habel (Sweden) / Grada Kilomba (Germany) / William Kentridge (South Africa) / Michael Küppers-Adebisi (Germany) / Rozena Maart (South Africa) / Walter Mignolo (United States) /IngridMwangiRobertHutter (Germany) / Minna Salami (England) / Dierk Schmidt (Holland) / Robbie Shilliam (England) / Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (Germany) / Emeka Udemba (Germany) Rolando Vázquez (Holland)

Walter Mignolo, Advisor

For more info BE.BOP 2012- BLACK EUROPE BODY POLITICS


——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Shop design made by women of African heritage

Final V1 1 Shop design made by women of African heritage

Launched as a tribute to the African Women’s Decade 2010 – 2020, The MsAfropolitan Boutique celebrates the entrepreneurship of Africa and diaspora women as a one-stop shop for fashion, accessories, art and gift collections made by women of African heritage.
In 2011, it was featured in the Huffington Post, catchavibe, SOAS World Magazine, Women of the African Diaspora, Lime Mag, Divascribe, CIAAfrique, Promota Magazine and  Afro Diva Ent to name a few. A highlight of the year was the inaugural MsAropolitan fashion show staged at the V&A Museum in June.

The MsAfropolitan Boutique aims to provide a platform where design by women of African heritage can be celebrated and reach a wide audience. Our goal is to, in the spirit of Ubuntu, return creativity to community and to create a space for African female-led entrepreneurship. We believe that creativity in form is storytelling and when it finds its community the outcome is transformation.

“I am what I am because of who we all are.” – Leymah Gbowee

Customers are invited to a shopping experience that centers around community and empowerment, including distinct and affordable products as well as a portfolio of the brand’s stories in the MsAfropolitan Boutique Interview Series. Each brand in The MsAfropolitan Boutique has been chosen for their unique inspiration from the African continent and beyond. Products available include men’s and women’s fashion, art, gifts and accessories.

Items in The MsAfropolitan Boutique make the ideal purchase for shoppers who value items that have meaning and who support niche causes.

Over the next year, we look to add several new labels, particularly Africa-based female entrepreneurs as part of the mission to keep raising awareness of the African Women’s Decade. If you would like to feature in The MsAfropolitan Boutique, please contact us.

Visit The MsAfropolitan Boutique @ its new home shop.msafropolitan.com

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from ‘The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion’ show

When we look back at Afropolitanism in the future, 2011 will certainly stick out as a landmark year.
It was the year the Afropolitan movement reached both virtual and actual spaces that define global culture. For example, Afropolitanism got a wikipedia listing. ARISE, the magazine that brought Afropolitanism to the mainstream, hosted ARISE Nigeria Fashion Week and ARISE ‘Made in Africa’ during New York Fashion Week and its editor, Helen Jennings, wrote a book called New African Fashion. In other news Al Jazeera host, Derrick N Ashong, released the album, “Afropolitan”, race and pop culture blog Racialicious announced the Afropolitan project and Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) held a symposium titled Africans in America: The New Beat of Afropolitans with panelists including Teju Cole, Wangechi Mutu, Odera Ozoka and Taiye Selasi, the author who coined the term in 2005.
Hatch Events and Asilia launched a global cocktail competition called The Birth of the Afropolitan.
The biggest Afropolitan event of the year was held at the V&A Museum, one of the world’s largest museums, who hosted Friday Late: Afropolitans. Thousands of people showed up to celebrate the fusion of cosmopolitan & African music, design, photography and more in what was one of the busiest Friday Late nights in the museum’s history.
On the night,Ms.Afropolitan presented a spirited panel discussion - What is an Afropolitan? and a fashion show with kora performance to a jam-packed Raphael Gallery, The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion.

Afropolitans 047 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Afropolitans 018 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Afropolitans 029 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Afropolitans 064 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Afropolitans 057 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Afropolitans 072 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Afropolitans 087 The Afropolitan year in review and 7 amazing photos from The Rise of Afropolitan Fashion show

Photos: Rob Sheppard

participating designers Listed here

For more photos from the Friday Late Afropolitans check out the V&A Museum flickr and video below

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Celebrating African Music – The MsAfropolitan Mixtapes vol. 1

MsA Mixtapes 1 Celebrating African Music   The MsAfropolitan Mixtapes vol. 1

I’m pleased to share that the first edition of the MsAfropolitan Mixtapes is here.

Courtesy of Broadcite Music, an esteemed independent label committed to creating unique sounds for the musically aware, we are going on an Afropolitan ride from Ghana to South Africa fusing highlife, juju, afrobeat and more with Detroit House and the edgy beats of underground London.

Out of all the arts, music possibly has the most direct effect on our senses. It touches on those places in our souls where we can’t forget to feel and it hits us with a cathartic recollection of emotion making us dance, sing, shout etc.!
Therefore I often write about African music because part of any renaissance movement such as Afropolitanism, negritude, the Harlem Renaissance or pan-Africanism must celebrate the creativity and culture among African and diasporic communities.

Click the image above or the soundcloud below to listen or download for free.

Enjoy and share!

The MsAfropolitan Mixtapes – vol. 1 by MsAfropolitan

The MsAfropolitan mixtapes vol. 1 by T.Roy [Broadcite]

1) Tony Allen – Kindness
2) Revolution – The Journey Continues
3) Sister Pearl – Bang the Drum
4) Bollie – You May Kiss Your Bride
5) Rob – Move
6) Aye toro – From Benin to Belize
7) Nneka – Africans
8 ) Stolen Moments
9) Uppers International – Dankasa
10) Apagya Showband – Mummunde
11) Malik Alston – Badeya
12) Upside down – Fela tribute
13) Joni Haastrup – My People

photo credit: Steve Snodgrass

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Running a workshop on race & identity at Mobilising young African women in the UK

 Running a workshop on race & identity at Mobilising young African women in the UKI’m taking part in an event titled Mobilising Young African Women in the UK. It will be an afternoon of interactive workshops and panel discussions on December 3rd at the Africa Centre

Why should you attend this event?

Are you fed up with the negative images of Africa especially of women and want to promote a positive view in the diaspora community? Do you want to contribute towards the development of African women and girls but don’t know how?

This afternoon of workshops and panel discussions will explore ideas on how young African Women in the Diaspora can mobilise to take action on gender equality and rights of African girls. It sets out to provide a platform for discussion on policies, issues, challenges and strategies for engagement and action. We will look at the positive and negative images in the media surrounding Africa. We will hear from young inspirational African women and look at what can be done to contribute towards the development of girls and women in Africa and provide the skills and information to be part of creating this collective voice for action.

Who should attend?

Young women from the African Diaspora in UK Youth organisations working with African young women in the Diaspora. While we aim to reach out to young women between 18 to 30 years (including students, researchers and young professionals )interested audiences are welcome to attend.

Speakers include:

Griselda Kumordzie Togobo– Founder of AWOVI Consulting Ltd

Suzanne Harris– Founder of ‘Changing the face of Africa’

Sada Mire– Somali Archaeologist/Founder and Executive Director of Horn Heritage.

Minna Salami– Founder of MsAfropolitan.com

Adwoa Agyemang- Founder of Ghanaian Londoners Network

Bumi Thomas- Singer/Songwriter- will be performing short solo set.

Members from FORWARD’s young women’s group

……more inspirational young African women speakers to be announced.

How do I register to take part in this event?

For further information and registration details please contact Naomi Reid atFORWARD – Naomi@forwarduk.org.uk or visit the Facebook page

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

My feature in (1)ne Drop – dialogues on racial politics and identity

1Drop Sembene My feature in (1)ne Drop –  dialogues on racial politics and identity

Being black is not a matter of pigmentation being black kis a reflection of a mental attitude  - Steve Bantu Biko

I am participating in an upcoming collaborative project by Africana Studies scholar Yaba Blay, Ph.D. and award-winning photographer Noelle Théard.

(1)ne Drop, as the documentary is called, is going to be a thought-provoking look into the “other” faces of blackness. Using the historical “one-drop rule” as a reference, Blay and Théard’s project seeks to challenge the narrow, yet popular perceptions of  blackness through one-on-one conversations and personal insights with people world over, who will be sharing stories about racial identity in a photo essay book format and intimate videos of our journeys on the 1drop website.

The conversation will explore the experiences of people of African descent from around the world, from Jamaica to Brasil to London and further to discuss with people who identify as black (or some version of black), yet have had their blackness challenged, whether through their skin color, hair texture, the color of their eyes, the shape of their bodies or any combination of physical characteristics, where something about their particular appearance causes other people to question their identities.

I am taking part because I believe that we need to keep talking and thinking about the confusion that has been created by racial categories. Somehow the term “post-racial” has slipped into mainstream reporting, suggesting that we have “gotten over race” or that we no longer have racial issues to tackle.(1)ne Drop demonstrates that concerns about race and what box people fit into are as important now, as they were when the US first instituted the one-drop rule.

How do you define blackness?
Does this sound like something you would like to see?
If so, support (1) Drop by visiting the Kickstarter page to find out how you can help and donate.

Images courtesy of Noelle Théard.

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Speaking on the ‘Inspirational Nigerians panel’ at Africa Rocks Expo

logo Speaking on the ‘Inspirational Nigerians panel’ at Africa Rocks ExpoI will be taking part in the inspirational Nigerians panel at the Africa Rocks Expo this Sunday, a one-day event celebrating African culture and showing why Africa is a great place to visit, work and do business in.

This year’s expo focuses on Nigeria and “aims to dispel the misconceptions and show people that Nigeria is forward-looking, vibrant, innovative and a great place to invest,’ says organiser Chinnelle Anichebe of The Culture Initiative.

Major exhibitors who are already signed up to appear at Africa Rocks include African fashion boutiques, ARISE magazine, the London Afrobeat Collective and the School of African and Oriental Studies. There will also be seminars, speed networking sessions, Q&A sessions , and the premiere of a new animated TV show. On the entertainment stage, there’ll be fashion shows featuring top Nigerian designers and live performances.

Come along, and say hi if you do!

More info available here

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

1-year anniversary of the African Women’s Decade

6183436861 36d0cb7454 1 year anniversary of the African Womens DecadeToday marks the one year anniversary of the AWD. The idea of a Women’s Decade was hatched in 1975 at the First World conference on women, but it took years of efforts to dig the path that in 2008 manifested as the proposal for an African Women’s Decade (AWD) by ministers of gender and women affairs in Lesotho. A proposal which was adopted by the AU and that declared 2010 – 2020 as African Women’s Decade.
(source: http://www.africa-union.org/root/AU/Conferences/2010/april/wgd/wgd.html)

Its success will depend largely on grassroots efforts. Responsible for making this decade a success is us, me and you. It is in our interest to raise awareness of this campaign, so that in ten years time the hard work of those who made this happen won’t be in vain.

Following the launch last year we discussed ways people could get involved here.

Apart from raising awareness about the decade on here and elsewhere, the MsAfropolitan Boutique launched in tribute of the AWD. The  MsAfropolitan Boutique celebrates the successes of women of the African diaspora, selling fashion, jewellery, art and much more. Each of the designers featured in the MsAfropolitan boutique has also been chosen because they offer a unique product that draws inspiration from the African continent and that supports ethical causes and/or production methods.
This shopping experience includes not only distinct products but also an interview series where each of the inspirational entrepreneurs shares their stories.

It has been a wonderful year, brands from the MsAfropolitan Boutique have increased from seven to seventeen, the shop has featured on several sites such as the Huffington Post and Catch A Vibe and many participated in an inaugural MsAropolitan fashion show staged at the V&A Museum in June. In the coming month, the shop will be relaunching with a new website, with a modern and individual look and plans are in place to deliver more fashion extravaganzas of African design and trends. And keep expanding of course. Watch this space!

This is one example of how to raise awareness of the AWD , and I look forward to doing much more in the coming nine years, hopefully with some of you guys! Let’s keep discussing project ideas. Whatever we do is great; no matter how small or big, the most important thing is that we are aware of this notable landmark because it is from awareness that ideas are born. So spread the word!

Looking or resources on the AWD? Check out Make Every Woman Count and The African Women’s Develpoment Fund (AWDF)

cc 1 year anniversary of the African Womens Decade photo credit: DioBurto

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

7 fucked up things

5642083189 7f90ab92c9 7 fucked up things

1. People that moan about the use of expletives.

2. The combination of capitalism and yoga. I can’t claim to know all there is to yoga but I can say for certain that apart from keeping you healthy, yoga philosophy aims to connect with something profound, some call it god, some peace, some essence. There is nothing wrong with buying expensive yoga gear, chakra energy jewels or zen retreats if that’s what you want to do, but some yogis are simply indulging in ‘spiritual materialism’. You cannot buy happiness. I see big bright red bulbs whenever a yoga class is marketed as ‘transcendental’ or ‘happiness-boosting’ or worst of all, anti-ageing. How utterly contradictory. Which leads to the next one:

3. Anti-ageing. If ever there were an indicator that western culture is not more evolved than any other it would be its fixation with ageing. Or should I say against ageing. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to look youthful as I get older, but not young. There is a difference and all the botox in the world does not make a person youthful.

4. African ignorance. This should have been number one. This is beyond fucked up. The problem is (at least) threefold. Africans that shun our history, our treasure of philosophical and cultural historical wealth. Africans that call our cultures ‘backward’ and Africans who behave as if Africa did not exist prior to the messed up shit that was colonialism.

5. African supremacy. Romanticizing Africa and its traditions is counterproductive. To develop we need to be willing to scrutinize ourselves, dirty laundry and all. We are not better than anybody else, human beings are all in the same boat. Realising this is the only way we can get to grips with the compex fabric of African society and psychology. Tradition is not dogma. We must unravel the myth and propaganda from the reality.

6. Unrealistic entrepreneurs. People that approach you for work and think that you will write an annual report, or a 10-000 word feature story, or their website content out of passion. Passion does not pay the rent. Get fucking real.

7a) African ignorance, once again. Really – this one is worth repeating. I think the disconnect between the precolonial and the modern is the root cause of failed governance in many African states. African society (and that extends to us in diaspora) is a product of long term patterns. It isn’t just the outcome of post-colonialism. Many people of this generation have a gap in African history knowledge because our schooling systems did not cater for it but with info at our fingertips there are no excuses anymore.

7b) This post. Because I don’t like writing in the negative and also because although I wouldn’t moan about using expletives, I may have overused them in this instance.

Anything to add?

Vote for MsAfropolitan in the BEFFTA awards ‘blog of the year’ category. Voting ends October 14th

cc 7 fucked up things photo credit: Brandon Giesbrecht

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Fashioning Africa exotic, colonial and tribal

00130m Fashioning Africa exotic, colonial and tribalCross-posted from Huffington Post

—-

African style is very much in vogue. Numerous runways in both New York and London fashion weeks could as well be called African fashion week. There were African influenced textiles such as the Malian Bogolan, also known as tribal in Donna Karan-review-speak. Proenza Schouler also gave a preview of their take on ‘modern tribal’, a key trend next year. African-inspired headwraps crowned the runways, however, this sophisticated African accessory was more likely to go down as the colonial look. Of course, prints inspired by the big five (Kors, Kors, Kors, Kors and Kors) were present too. Not to mention Burberry’s ankara revival.

The only thing that was painfully absent on this African fashion savannah was, well, Africans themselves.

For those of us experiencing yet another African moment in fashion, we took notes on the African-inspired trends for spring/summer 2012 and wondered where are all the African designers?

The answer is that they are in the so called heart of darkness looking for the next tribal bone to hang around the necks of noble tribesmen and hunting for exotic animal prints that will decorate their textiles. They are drafting raffia skirts on local bush dwellers and drumming up endearing tribal beadworks. They are in other words, paving the way for the international fashion elite, who will be inspired by them but give them no credit as they dictate the next exotic trend to style-craving fashionistas.

Oh indeed, African fashion has much to offer western designers as we know all too well. From Kenzo to Yves Saint Laurent to Ralph Lauren to Thierry Mugler to Malene Birger, the big players habitually pinch ideas from the African continent and that’s all right; the world is and should be a diverse source of inspiration for all. What’s problematic is the lack of credit to the African fashion industry, in so doing stifling its progress, as well as the appropriation of African fashion aesthetic into a perpetual spiral of tribal, colonial and exotic.

Thoughts?

MSbanner Fashioning Africa exotic, colonial and tribal

 

 

——

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

pixel Fashioning Africa exotic, colonial and tribal