“I took to the English language as a duck takes to water. I was therefore a keen accomplice and student in my own mental colonization.” – Damnbudzo Marechera
Australian artist Virginia Ryan moved to my beautiful Cote d’Ivoire a few years ago and started making art inspired by Ivorian fabrics and of course our women 🙂 I love it all.
Once I save up enough money (in 1o years) I’ll buy one and hang it in my foyer. Cause thats what adults do, they have foyers and buy art. For now, one of her pieces is my current background, thats free.
Definitions of feminism first came from the West; a term deeply rooted in a history that didn’t include women who looked like my ancestors or me. I remember reading “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan in my undergraduate Gender course. Excuse my French, but that shit confused me, this was a book all about middle-aged white women who were tired of being housewives, they were unhappy with their plush lives and unsatisfied with suburbia. THIS Friedan called “the problem that has no name,” the unhappiness of 1950’s white homemakers who apparently wanted more for themselves than a life of leisure and reproducing. I was concerned, and that’s when I knew there had to be a different sect of feminism. I knew there had to be more layers to feminism because there were more women in the world than white suburban housewives.
I remember calling my mom in Abidjan one day asking her to define feminism. It was mostly a joke, like when I ask her opinion on Kim and Kanye or H&M’s Versace line. Asking her about things that she doesn’t think impacts her life breeds funny answers like, “Does Kim pay for my fuel? Is Versace in my family?” So when I asked her for her definition she surprised me by telling me the story of how she urged my dad to play a bigger part at home when they first moved to the US. She told him that he needed to help clean, and cook, and wash my older brother because that’s what good men did, they helped their wives. She said even though her in laws saw her as emasculating my father, she stood her ground that helping your wife did not make a man any less masculine.
My mother went on to tell me that my grandmother was a feminist; she fought with men for her space along the banks of rivers so she could fish for herself instead of depending on her husband. My grandmother was a single mother who happened to be married, so she worked hard everyday of her life to find the money to send my uncle to pharmacy school in Dakar and my mother to Paris. My grandmother knew that while my Grandfather was having children outside of their marriage, she had to be the one to provide, that was her role. My grandmother was a feminist, my mother is a feminist, neither is able to give you the long convoluted definitions that have confused the academic world for decades, but their strength and demand for respect and equality in a historically patriarchal society is their definition.
As women of the diaspora, educated abroad, existing in many different worlds, its important for us to understand that our ancestors have BEEN feminists. Strong women who have triumphed over domestic abuse, single motherhood, colonization, war, all while carrying their communities on our backs. Senegalese writer, Awa Thiam, puts it so well when she says that “the Black woman of Africa suffers a threefold oppression: by virtue of her sex, she is dominated by man in a patriarchal society; by virtue of her class she is at the mercy of capitalist exploitation; by virtue of her race she suffers from the appropriation of her country by colonial or neo-colonial powers.” With so many things against us, how could we survive without the strength to fight for equality, respect, and recognition? We have fought for our voices to be heard, for our pay to be equal, for us to be recognized as vital parts of our societies.
So, as the West continues to try to define Africa, and its women, in the paradigm of poverty, disease, and helplessness; its important to remember that while American and European white women were burning bras, our ancestors were raging against colonialism. They were becoming the first black women educated in their respective countries. They were fighting in civil wars. I mean lets be honest here, African women have BEEN feminists, lets not let academia confuse that for us.
I’m Thankful for:
Africa and living here
My Mother and Father and their ability to make me laugh over skype
My brothers and their complete faith in all that I do
My job that pays me money even when I feel like running away
New friends I’ve made in Tanzania
My close girlfriends and their emails, calls, and messages
My nieces and nephew
My waist cause its small
My skin cause its pretty
My masters degree
Hello internet friends!
I just got back from a wonderful two weeks in Dar and Zanzibar 🙂 I went swimming, dancing, saw P Square in concert, ate all the food, and of course I did some work for WomenCraft (Holiday Season=ALL the craft fairs).
My coworkers and I even took some photos of the products out on the beach in Zanzibar! The photos came out beautifully! My girl Yasmine does it big behind the camera, she even caught my big behind in one of the shots! Its cool doe, she made my waist look small 🙂
Anywho, I’m back in rainy cold Ngara, but in 3 weeks I’ll be back in Zanzibar for NewYears!
It is good oh.
“I like the way she wanna rule like a King”
YO!! WEST AFRICA YAS! So proud of our growing music scene 🙂
Me and my mamas 🙂
Seriously, living here has been a challenge. I have my ups and downs, many downs, some days are filled with my lowest hours lol. BUT, the instances I get to spend time with our artisans, laugh with them, dance with them, its really makes me feel like “Ok, this is why you are here, like really, this was the purpose.”
So, this is an appreciation post to all the mamas at WomenCraft, thank you for sharing your happiness.
“There is no intimacy like that between two women who have chosen to be sisters.”- Warsan Shire (via seancing)