A Story of Struggle, Survival & Empowerment
I want to weep, she thought. I want to be comforted. I’m so tired of being strong. I want to be foolish and frightened for once. Just for a small while, that’s all… a day…an hour…
-Catelyn Stark, Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings.
Like Catelyn, I believe there are very many women –black women, nay, Afrikan women who have wished this, even if just for a minute, deep within their heart of hearts. The story of Afrikan women has always been a story of struggle, survival, and empowerment. Not to say that that’s a bad thing, but our story can have, and should have much much more. Afrikan women have not been granted due credit for many achievements, primarily because we live in a patriarchal society and like most millennials would say, niggas ain’t shit.
Not to “hate” on our black kings, but it is an undeniable truth that ‘Our’ Afrikan story is mostly based on our male counterparts and only has little to do with our female representation. Many of us know of Nelson Mandela, great icons like Chinua Achebe or the legendary Patrice Lumumba. Not as many would know of Judith Kanakuze, a woman whose work helped usher not only the first gender egalitarian parliament in Rwanda, but the first in the whole world.
Let’s take it back in history and talk about Queen Makeda, who is held in Ethiopian tradition to be the Queen of Sheba that is mentioned in the Bible. The Bible briefly mentions the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon, but provides very little information about the Queen of Sheba herself. The Kebra Nagast tells the story of Queen Makeda, who is described as the powerful ruler of a wealthy kingdom who is curious to test Solomon’s purported wisdom. She decides to visit Solomon in Israel. The Kebra Nagast records that Makeda was impressed by Solomon’s wisdom and was so interested in “the God of Israel” that Makeda converted to Solomon’s religion. Makeda returned to her kingdom in Ethiopia where she gave birth to Solomon’s child, a boy who was named Menelik, the first king of the famous dynasty of the Lions of Judah, the last of whom was Negus Haile Selassie, the last Emperor of Ethiopia.
Most of us know of the famous Fela Kuti, but have you heard of his mother, Funmilayo Kuti? Funmilayo was a nationalist who fought for the independence of Nigeria and along with her husband, Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti.Funmilayo was involved in anti-colonial organizations such as the West African Students Union. In 1947, Funmilayo led a group of women in protest against the District Officer of Abeokuta. Fela later spoke of this incident with pride, recalling how his mother had insulted the highest representative of the British crown in Abeokuta. For the courageous manner in which Funmilayo took on the colonial government she was popularly known as the “daughter of Lisabi.” Lisabi was a famous warrior who led the Egba people in their war of resistance against the powerful Oyo kingdom.
We can go on and on about these great Afrikan women who history has often chosen to ignore. Women like Yaa Asantewaa, a great military warrior who did not back down from rebelling even after her son and king had been exiled. Or Queen Nzinga of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms which were located in present day Angola who is best remembered for the resistance that she put up against the Portuguese slave traders in her nation. Stories of women like Saartjie ‘Sara’ Baartman a Khoikhoi woman who was taken to Europe where she became a freak show attraction because of her features, especially her large buttocks. She became a sort of symbol for the hyper sexuality and inferiority of African women. Her story is one that does need to be told so that people can understand the extent to which African women were(and still are) degraded and reduced to sex objects for the entertainment of European men.
Afrikans were (undeniably) the first to inhabit the earth. Fossil records as well as DNA analysis give scientific evidence to support this fact. Therefore, the first woman to give birth was a Black Afrikan woman. It is from us that all humans have come. The other races of humankind all evolved from Black Afrikans. Hue-manity was born in Africa, Black Africa to be precise. In 1959 two palaeontologists dug up the skull of a human like being dated to be 1.75 million years old. The place of the discovery was Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. In 1974, at the same location, they discovered Lucy, a 3 ½ million year old fossil of a small woman. This young African woman, Lucy, may be the womb from which all humanity came.
May we as Afrikans strive to restore Afrikan women to a position of respect and dignity that even exceed that which she enjoyed in the past (waayy waaayy wayyy in the past). For it is only when a nation respects women and treats them with dignity that true development can occur. Women are at the frontlines of hue-manity as mothers and primary caregivers. Therefore, in nurturing and building them, we are building the whole nation and continent.
Writen by Chelsea Laria