On the 25th of May every year, the continent celebrates the liberation of Africans from colonialism and the formation of Africa Union. The AU recognises that for the African woman, there is a multitude of problems that still need to be addressed for us to get to the top. I could write a book! I like how the character Mai Shingayi in Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga put it,
“with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other. Aiwa! What will help you my child is to learn to carry your burdens with strength.”
With that in the back of our minds, there are a few ways that the ‘blackness’ is being celebrated in our daily lives. We are in an age where the blackness is slowly becoming a symbol of power and wealth rather than that of poverty. Our African identity has become a more predominant aspect of our lives. There is a sense of pride in being African. I took to the Instagram streets to find out what makes women proud to be African in the 21st century.
What a time to be African – “my kinks and curls”
It’s a pity that it has taken us so long to accept our natural hair. Individuals my age were subjected to hot stones and relaxer for as far back as we could remember. But the natural hair revolution that started in the 60s in America, has also been accepted here in Africa too. It is weird when you think that the Anglicised version of our hair was glorified for so long. I remember a time when I walked into the complex of my former place of employment and one of my female bosses asked me why my natural hair was out and her assumption was – I wasn’t getting paid enough to get my hair done. It hurt, but I didn’t blame her, purely because so many women are told natural hair is not professional. I’m glad we all know better now, we know that that our hair is our crown (even the Bible says so) and we accept the kinks and curls on our heads.
At the time of colonization and slavery and missionaries, black people were immediately told that their hair was uncivilized,ugly,unprofessional and even ungodly. In America white women would get jealous of their slaves because their hair was too flamboyant. pic.twitter.com/S04rCLRMab
— Mwagíra (@mwagiramuriithi) June 6, 2020
What a time to be African – “when the drum beats”
African music is one of the biggest aspects of our daily lives. The comedian Trevor Noah once joked about how South Africans express their anger through dance and song -a complete paradox. But that is how Africans are, music was a great part of liberation across the continent. It is a large identifier for us and it’s clear that there is an appreciation worldwide. Coincidentally on the 21st of May, the Interactive Google Doodle was in celebration of the Zimbabwean instrument, the Mbira. People across the globe were able to practice their skills through the doodle and learn some interesting aspects of Shona culture. Music was one of the most prominent responses I received from my follows citing the great works of Oliver Mtukuzi to Babes Wodumo, from afrojazz to house to amapiano, we can all agree that the heart of Africa is our music.
What a time to be African – “the arts”
It’s so great to see that we Africans have found a voice for ourselves in the arts. From my first Literature lesson I have tried to soak up as much African Literature as I can. African women have found a voice in literature – a few names from the top of my head: Noviolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi (you might recognise her prose from Beyonce’s song, Flawless ), Petina Gappah and so many more. With the filming of Black Panther in 2018, there were even more searches regarding Africa. Although the city of Wakanda was purely fictional, it reflected black excellence and tried to incorporate different African cultures and beliefs. The most important aspect, in my view, was the depiction of African women as strong and resilient people, able to occupy positions of authority (our own Danai Gurira made us proud).
African expression is also depicted in our fashion. The epitome of occupying spaces was when Nigerian women were full force at the Vienna Fashion Week in Austria showcasing fashion and dance. Bright patterns and colourful fabrics are now incorporated into our formal attire.
What a time to be African – “the continent”
We have a beautiful continent, we have Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mosi-oa-Tunya (or alternatively known as Victoria Falls) and the Red Sea Reef for crying out loud! If you have a bit of cash to spare (and after the lockdown of course) the best investment you could make is exploring the beauty Africa has to offer by travelling. In Zimbabwe alone there are so many places to visit and appreciate the wonder that is nature. There are various lifestyle blogs that document trips around Zimbabwe, and it can be surprisingly affordable. Personally, I have a little bucket list drawn up and I try to visit as many places as my pocket can allow.
— #IAmThatIAm (@RudeboyNecta) June 9, 2020
These are just a few reasons why we are proud to be African. In some ways it is now easier to be a woman and African and express yourself as such. There is so much that still needs to be addressed such as patriarchy, gender parity and the empowerment but for now we will enjoy these milestones.
And I said New Body WHO THIS 🤪 ? pic.twitter.com/9mwWnBb5hN
— 𝔇𝔞𝔰𝔦𝔞 𝔍𝔞𝔫𝔞𝔢 (@dajjrambo) May 2, 2020