Back to the business of telling African women’s stories.
As many of you have probably noticed, I am a huge Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and Lupita Nyong’o fan. HUGE. Like, reduced to screaming incoherently, wanting to plaster the walls of my room with their pictures and their sayings… . I go absolutely bonkers for anything that has to do with these two women. I mean check out that Bigidi (or na follow-me?) Who want try?
I’m not alone.
Chimamanda and Lupita are very popular and well loved to many black women every where, but they seem to be loved with a deeper fervor by black African women. I have a few theories as to why.
A lot of the praise being heaped on Lupita and Chimamanda have to do with the fact that not only are they beautiful, they are smart, articulate/well spoken, well educated, well read, sophisticated, self aware and “world-aware.”
Here’s the thing though, think about the African women you know, from different countries and corners of the continent. How many of them are similar if not exactly the same?
How many of them are smart? Professionals with college educations or more? How many of them are academic butt kickers despite working and having families and many responsibilities?
How many of them are not only articulate but fluent in more than one language?
How many of them are well read and self aware? Classy and just generally quality human beings?
Now, I am not unaware of the challenges that women on the continent still face or the long way that things still have to go. My point is that for an ever increasing number of African women, their story is not that of the woman stripped of her right to self determination, wallowing in poverty, illiterate, uneducated, unempowered, married off by 14 and saddled with 3 children by 19. For many African women, the story is changing. We go to school, even graduated college and have advanced degrees, we know the world, we know the challenges we have and we can speak up. More importantly, not all of us are from privileged backgrounds, matter of fact many of us come from not particularly rich parents (as many people seem to think Africans in the diaspora do). Granted Ms. Adichie and Ms. Nyongo’o come from some privilege (relatively speaking) but how many of the Cameroonian, Nigerian, Ghanian, Senegalese, Togolese, Congolese, Gabonese, Kenyan, Somali, Ethiopian etc women out there, at home and abroad, do you know who are just as educated, just as well spoken, just as ambitious, but do not come from any privilege?
For many of us, this image of the African woman that seems so fixed in the minds of non Africans is as foreign to us as it is to them.
And that my friends is likely why we resonate so deeply with Chimamanda and Lupita.
Chimamanda’s stories, tell our stories. Growing up in cities, going to school,thinking about the future, starting careers back home or travelling abroad, realizing that there is so much more to the world than we thought, marriage, children, careers, life, trying to figure out how it all fits in, attempting to reconcile the lives and stories of our mothers and grandmothers with the one’s we now are living. We see our hopes in them. Our hopes for success in our chosen careers, not only at our community levels but at international levels. We see our struggles in them, we see the potential for our triumph in them. We see the validation of a truth we have known all along:
We have value. We have a heck of a lot of value.
We have voices. Not just voices, but we have a lot to say.
We have ideas. Ideas that can change the world.
We have beauty. Beauty that can turn heads and inspire.
We have knowledge worth knowing.
We are here.