7 African female icons that shaped historyhttp://www.msafropolitan.com/2010/12/7-african-female-icons-that-shaped-history.html
In his book ‘Society must be defended’, written in 1976, Michel Foucault speaks about historical revisionism, hinting to a an earlier statement made by Winston Churchill who said that “History is written by the victors”.
These discussions are still relevant today. A significant amount of historical narrative is still being written by those with the most power. If you walk into any of the world’s most powerful institutions (government, academic or corporate) you will identify that the group that are shaping history are Euro-American men. I’m not saying that this group is intentionally shaping history for the rest of us, or that other groups aren’t contributing in large measures to what future generations will consider history. Rather, I want to highlight that the power of writing one’s own history seems to be what history making is all about. Knowing the sources of stories that shape our lives, helps to combat the danger of the single story.
Africa is again a continent of international interest, which is good, but who is writing the current narrative about Africa, also that which is about ‘rebranding’ the continent? I think the source of the information that we consume, is even more important than the information itself.
On the other hand it’s worth knowing that magazines like FAB magazine, are African owned, managed and produced. As a regular contributor to FAB, I am pleased to be involved in a project that is by Africans for Africans. Another example of home-grown storytelling is Spielworks, a Kenyan media content producer.
Next week I’ll be posting about 7 African male icons but first up are 7 women (out of many more and this is a great resource for women leaders in Africa).
1. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti – The Woman Activist
Years before the second wave of feminism began to take form in the West, there was a woman making activist waves in Nigeria. She was a woman nationalist named Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti. Her feminism and democratic socialism lead to the creation of The Abeokuta women’s union (AWU) and later Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF), organisations and movements that aided Kuti to promote women’s rights to education, employment and to political participation. When king Alake Ademola of Egbaland wanted to impose taxes on women, Kuti and the AWU clan went to protest using the slogan ‘no taxation without representation’. They were not equal members of society and were strongly opposed to paying taxes until the injustices were rectified. As the women protested outside the Alake’s house, they sang in Yoruba:
“Alake, for a long time you have used your penis as a mark of authority that you
are our husband.
Today we shall reverse the order and use our vagina to play the role of husband.”
Their unified actions resulted remarkably in the king’s abdication.
2. Yaa Asantewa – The Commander in Chief
No woman is known in the history of the African reactions and responses to European power better than Nana Yaa Asantewa of the Asante state Edweso in Ghana. She was the military leader of what is known as the ‘Yaa Asantewa War’, which was the last war between the Asante and the British, and during which she became referred to by the British as the ‘Joan D’Arc of Africa’. Although she did not enter combat herself, the troops fought in her name and she gave orders and provided the troops with gun powder.
3. Winnie Mandela – The President’s Wife
Twenty years of separation proved too much even for the Mandelas. The young woman Nelson Mandela knew when he was incarcerated was not the middle-aged woman to whom he returned. And she, now accustomed to the company of young male rebels became uncomfortable in the presence of the old Nelson. When the couple embarked on an international journey after Nelson’s release, crowds flocked to see him, the person they considered the hero of South African anti-apartheid politics. What this crowd was likely not to know was Winnie’s activist work, her leadership and her outspoken opposition to white minority rule played an equal role in the anti-apartheid campaign . There’s a clip here that is historically significant.
4. Margaret Ekpo – The Fashionable Feminist
Margaret Ekpo was famous for being a fashionable woman who combined western and Nigerian fashion influences. Perhaps her background as a seamstress enabled her to even better express her ‘Afropolitan’ lifestyle via her clothing. She loved ballroom dancing and was a devout Christian, but when it came to her political activism, which really is what she was about, she made sure to uphold an image of Africaness, wearing traditional clothes and plaiting hair during political campaigns.
A few women can lay claim to as many legacies for their countrymen as Maragaret Ekpo. At the time of her death she left behind a legacy of ‘One Nigeria’, ‘Women in Politics’, ‘Women in Business and Leadership’ and ‘Emancipation for Women’.......http://www.msafropolitan.com/2010/12/7-african-female-icons-that-shaped-history.html