African Women hold an incredible legacy on their back, a vibrant history of queen, pharaohs, leaders and thinkers that, still today manifest their feminine energy into our current society through those who are bold enough to lift their voices in a patriarchal society, always diminishing their power and make them seek refuge in fear and forced empathy, accepting every form of violence from this system.
Today, we are not only highlighting those great figures that we all know and we all respect but it’s a short path that we’ll draw on the sand with a small piece of wood that will lead to understand many aspect and roles African women played or faced to be who they are today.
Hatshepsut – fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt
Hatshepsut: The pharaoh is a woman
Actually she wasn’t the first woman to reign on men, but she was the most iconic to do so. Hatshepsut came on the throne with knowledge on economy, international diplomacy and for 20 years she managed to enhance Egypt and build wealth over her kingdom. She was a visionary and participated in major technical advanced and discovery, by financing and leading the first expedition to the Land of Punt (Region of Somalia) who was believed to be an ancient kingdom, where the first Egyptians are coming from. As a matter of fact she paved the way for strong, magnificent buildings that many pharaohs claim as theirs, transplanted foreign trees into her royal yard that a generation benefited from.
When we talk about beauty, African women have a strong resume. From Nefertiti that overshadowed every women in history for her beauty that was registered so many times through time to Makeda: Queen of Sheba that brang another sense to it with her internal beauty (wisdom, compassion, respect, boldness, fearlessness and self-esteem) a strong value in Africa.
The black of their skin was described as gold, their hair were crown, worn to express their creativity and versatility, and they knew many secrets of beauty that they passed down from mother to daughter. African woman are naturally beautiful and smart, praised for their strong curves holding themselves and others on their back. Beauty wasn’t something to seek for when they already knew they were, accepting every aspect of their bodies, African women were their own standard.
Furthermore, some accessories like fragrance, wigs, cowries, and make up were already used in the past in a sense of beauty enhancer. External beauty may seem false and give a wrong impression of someone’s true nature for instance many distinctive signs of beauty were established in different tribes like necklaces and jewelries by Zulu people, stripes on faces by the Maasai in Kenya, and face scarification by Yoruba people in Nigeria.
Abla Pokou TO
Women held an important power in many chieftaincies and tribes in Africa. Matriarchy was a system that gave African women power positions in politics, social privilege and control. One of the most common tribe that is known for this societal organization is the Akan people. Their society is matrilineal, meaning that all inheritance matters are based on the mother. Female were leaders, they weren’t only this stereotypical etiquette on their reproductive capacity, they allowed greatness on their entire lineage.
Ablah Pokou was an Akan queen that sacrificed her baby to save her kingdom and allowed them to reach another land for safety. Her people were named Baoulé, word coming from (Baouli: The child has died) a homage to her lost child. On top of that she is venerated and represents courage, woman leadership, determination, spreading the message of this legend that survived every ages to inspire more women.
Art was very important in African societies, it described our culture, stories, deities through paintings, sculptures and more. African women were making potteries, baskets, sewing, designing textiles etc.…
Although they were participating in creating art pieces, most of the time the artworks, masks and sculpted figures represented their bodies, their nudity and were even used for rituals, fertility purpose. Women were both creators and subject, and female beauty was portrayed and glorified by both men and women.
Between lust and a cursed heritage
This huge legacy was coveted and African women will never be the same. The colonial era brought violence, gender discrimination, women were losing their power in African societies becoming only objects. African women are now highly disrespected, the one that were painted as goddess are now playing not a second but third role. Marriage was important but now that’s the only title that they can pretend to in this new one hundred percent patriarchal society.The black of their skin was described as dirty, ugly and their hair were cut, burned, hidden to make them believe something they were not. Broken families, burned traditions, lost empathy, bashed blood, bleached skin, hair cut, tragedy.
Saartje Baartman was one of the many victims, this curvy african woman was sexualized, abused, raped, and lived a depressed life before dying sadly at a young age. This marked not the start but years of humiliation over african women that started losing their yesteryear strong aspect. However, they were still perceived as strong but in a negative way. For this reason, they are not allowed to cry, to be vulnerable, they have to compromise no matter what happen to their dignity and self-worth.
After centuries of oppression, trying to step back, the world was always an enemy to their fulfillment like a curse, casted by history that generations will face until they find a counter spell.
We should all be Feminist!
Nowadays, we see another era of women claiming for equity and equality. They are tired of male supremacy and male privilege, the “a woman is supposed to stay at home” narrative is for the past, education for young African girls, redefine our culture and the aspect that doesn’t allow them to evolve, tell women to not accept everything formed against them in this world. LETS ALL BE FEMINIST.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, a Nigerian writer is now a feminist icon in Africa and beyond. She wants equality, she wants dignity and respect for every women in this world. After sending powerful messages in her TED talk, she exhorts women and men to join this fight for generations to uncast the curse. She is a great example of leadership, greatness, elegance and intelligence, that’s an African Women.
Now we have Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the first woman elected president in Africa in 2005, who maintained Liberia and imposed herself in this so called man dominated field, that’s an African Woman, which created controversy because of her gender.
She was certainly guided by Hatshepsut’s spirit her great ancestor aura who proved years ago, she was more than her gender, don’t limit myself when I can run this world too. Black women will always find a way to reach their final form, our first mothers coming from the so called motherland, breaking codes as they will set their reign to another era allowing a future generation of African women to first breathe in this world without holding one nostril.
Written by Yao Boni.