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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Positively Woman

Muslim Women Walking, Zanzibar August 2011
I have been happily inspired by all things pertaining to womanhood in the last two weeks and so have decided to add to my 3-4-10 series with a round-up.  Thought this picture I took of Muslim women walking along in Zanzibar was the perfect image to use with this post as it is a lovely visual metaphor for how creative and free women can be despite restrictions placed on them by society socially, politically and/ or economically.  Though required to cover themselves, they have found a way to let their personalities shine through by eschewing the traditional black, using African chitenge (or in Swahili kitenge) cloth to infuse colour into their wardrobe, while still adhering to tradition.

3 inspiration women of the moment:

1. President Joyce Banda

Her presidency is the result of the unfortunate death of Malawi's elected head of state, the late Bingu Wa Mutharika.  It has, however, enabled her to become the second female president on the African continent.  Not only that, we now have TWO female heads of state serving concurrently :).  President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, the recent Nobel Laureate, congratulated President Banda with these words of advice about being a woman and a leader.  To find out more about Her Excellency, read this article: it gives great background and insight into who she is as a person and I also liked this article about her husband, who is set to be a great First Man or is it GENTLEMAN?!- he will not try to usurp power or undermine her to prove he is still the man, you know what I mean?

2.  Leymah Gbowee

I did not know much about Ms. Gbowee till she became the joint Nobel Peace Prize Laureate with her fellow countrywoman President Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkol Karman of Lebanon. Her recent TED speech is truly inspiring, and when hearing her speaking on GPS with Fareed Zakaria helped me articulate how I felt the West should be involved in affecting change on the continent, which I blogged about here.

3.  Ashley Judd

I have always liked Ms. Judd's acting and the fact that she disappears from sight when she is not working, maintaining a mystery and a dignity that few in Hollywood can muster these days.  I am currently enjoying watching her in the new series Missing, in which she is an ex-CIA agent who lost her husband due to the job so she retires only to have her son in kidnapped in Rome a decade later.  I love the strong motherly character this brings out in her.  She chop-sueys her way through Europe, kills baddies and follows clues spurred by the love of her child and she does it in a female way, not in a "the only way I can do this is to be like a man", like so many other female characters in this genre are often played.   One of my first posts on the blog was about Salt, the movie with Angelina Jolie and I had issues with how some of the plot was geared so as not to emasculate the men as is also the norm with a strong woman protagonist, but Missing has men who are men and their manhood is not defined by women having to take a back seat in some way and Judd is able to take charge without losing her womanhood or having to be stereotypically effeminate. 

I digress.  What I wanted to say was I enjoyed her recent article in the Daily Beast.  She writes about how women are hypersexualised, how our worth is essentialised to merely our physical appearance,  how we are limited by not only the paternalistic and parochial nature of our societies, but also how we women are perpetuating this discrimination and are actually guilty of fuelling the prejudices we face daily, though we like to blame men for our lot in life.  

4 songs by beautiful African women:

1. This is my theme song right now.  If you do decide to indulge in some of the recreational activities she lists, you know how I feel about when it starts to rain - please use a raincoat :)

2.  This video just makes me happy, and the song by itself is just lovely.  I really want a kaftan now.

3.  "All I know is Swagger!"  I love it.  Watched this Channel O introduction to Camp Mulla and just loved how Miss Karun is so articulate and chilled for one so young.  I particularly liked when she said that she really doesn't like to get bogged down in defining exactly what genre Camp Mulla's music is because it is inspired, draws from and uses elements across many different sounds, cultures and experiences.  I think her philosphy should be applied to gender, race, culture, religion and life really.  Stop trying to put everyone and everything in a box and just take things and people for what they are.  We are all influenced by many things, and while stereotypes and norms help us form schema to make it through the world, they are a guide, NOT strict rules and definitions to be adhered to.  There must be room and a welcome space for deviations as they are the crux of creativity, innovation, progress and evolution.

4. Toya DeLazy's style is clearly inspired by menswear (I heart very much) and she does not subscribe to your typical bubblegum pop princess "I'm cute and pretty" or the "hey look I'm sexy and edgy and different (but really still a slave to the machine)" clubs, but doesn't come off like she is trying to hide her womanhood or sexuality either.  I love that she has her own style and is making pop music without needing to be half-naked, gyrating and/ or humping the floor to get our attention and is still singing with sense, depth and meaning to  her lyrics.  She knows she has her own brand of swag and is not afraid to show it.

10 woman/ female related things that put a smile on my face (in no particular order):

1.  African Voices with John Meletse

If you are wondering why I have started off with a man, my answer to you is being gay falls in to the female category when put in the gender dichtomy paradigm of male/ female, masculine/ feminine and therefore into sister dichotomies: strong/ weak, ruler/ subordinate, defender/ defenceless etc. And disabled people in the world fall into the same category too.  He states he very much identifies more with women in society than men so I rest my case. You can watch the episode of African Voices with John here.

2. Rwanda's Parliament has a 55% female majority, the first in the world :)

Not only is Parliament mostly female, it is quite youthful and connected through social media.  Way to go Rwanda for leading the way!  I came across these lovely nuggets of trivia while enjoying an article laced with inspirational quotes from President Kagame about how we Africans need to start being agents of change on the continent, rather than limiting ourselves to being passive receptors of whatever fate is bestowed on us from outsiders. We need to stop talking and start doing because "people don't eat debates, they eat food". Love it!

3. Chimamanda Adichie

Though she has irked me in the past with some of her views, she is a badass.  Her TED talk on the dangers of the single story has really helped me process and navigate through the issues of the day in the media.

4. Christina Hendricks aka Joan in Mad Men

Saw a picture of her as Joan on Mad Men's Facebook page and the read the comments from BOTH men and women praising and enjoying her voluptuous figure without hypersexualising her undulating lady lumps and humps or hateration. This kind of positivity helps to promote healthy and diverse body images in the media and in turn in society . It reminds me of an interview I watched of hers where she responded "You've gotta eat!" when she was asked how she maintains her lovely figure. Yay for curves and being healthy!

5.  Viola Davis rocking her TWA

For y'all that don't know, TWA means teeny weenie afro.  It's so sad that she has not been rocking her natural hair for fear of discrimination on the job and I'm glad that she showed how beautiful she can be without straight hair and/ or a wig at the Oscars.  I do not have a problem with Black women rocking whatever texture hair or wearing their own versus bought hair.  What I'm all about is why.  If you are shunning your natural hair because of some sort of societal pressure or an unchecked self hate then I have a problem.  I also have issues with people thinking they are better than someone else because they have relaxed or weaved hair or when they rock dreads or a fro.

6. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian Finance Minister, former World Bank managing director and World Bank head hopeful

Yesterday it was confirmed that Obama's choice, Kim Yong Jim, will be the new head of the World Bank :( despite support from not only many African nations but from around the world.  She is proof that women and Africans hold powerful positions and are serious contenders on the global stage.

7. Inspirational film

Listen to and be inspired by Tunisian Nadia El Fani talking about making a a controversial film that includes a scene with a restaurant serving food during Ramadan and about how Muslims need to change their own perceptions of what they are capable of and what human rights they are worthy of.  She has made this film because she is a patriotic Tunisian and not to be a rabble-rouser for no apparent reason. I also just came across the fact that Luc Besson made a film about Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese activist who has been under house arrest for years and recently made history by being elected to Parliament.  It's called The Lady and stars Michelle Yeoh.

8. Mark Grist's spoken word piece on loving women who read

Thank God for this, I always suspected there were more men out there with such sentiments.

9.  Inspirational quotes

As always, Maya Angelou, the eternal tall drink of refreshing water has a new quote ready for me to discover and love:

"I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being."

"The right man will love all the things about you that the wrong man was intimidated by." Whoever said that is absolutely right :)

10. Titica, the transsexual singer in Angola

Included for the same reasons as John Meletse.  A man taking on a female persona in a Catholic country.  Courage is always inspiring :).  You can read about Titica here


  1. Great post! So much to absorb.

    I'm cheering the TWA all the way. A term I only discovered because I had one of those days when everyone around me had long flowing hair and I didn't know what to do with my kinks. I searched afro hairstyles on YouTube and lo and behold the TWA was everywhere. Its a love hate relationship but wouldn't trade my afro in now :)

  2. Oh and I'm stealing that 'Girl who reads' poem!! Love it.

  3. Ha ha ha I stole that from a friend of mine who stole it from someone else so please carry on the pilfering trend :)

    I did not know about the TWA until recently so I never used the term when I had one a coupla years ago.