by Pearl P Mashabane
Did you notice the background image? Well, take another look. Those are my mothers, aunts and sisters. The women born on the rich African soil and strenghtned by her sun. The ones that carried me on their backs when they came from fetching water and firewood. Their chapped hands that knew not the luxuries of creamy lotions worked hard to mould us into the men and women we are. Their melodious songs still reverberates in me to this day, their stories have paved the paths we tread. They are strength and grace personified.
Yet if you were not raised by them or met them, i am sure you have a very different perception. And most likely that view was manufuctured and broadcast by popular media with some home assistance of course.
Looking through that single lens story you will have seen that that African women cannot speak for themselves, that we are subdued, oppressed and at the mercy of the rest of the world to save us. You know what i am talking about; you just need to flick though a few TV channels and you’ll see “us”. You’ll observe that we will either be running away from wars, famine, dying from diseases or living in dire fear of the male species who are perpetually waiting around the corner to commit all kinds of atrocities against us.
And since we “cannot” or are not allowed to speak for ourselves, others are always telling ours stories. Our lives and humanity are sold through daunting camera lenses at our low moments (without permission) and the background voice is not ours. In our name, documentaries are made and charities started to save us from our Lot. Our reality is packaged in such way that you are convinced to reach to your wallet and throw money that may or may not reach us. Ours realities are as diverse as the shades of our skin. Some of it is indeed gut wrenching bad and we need your generosity and love but some of it is deliciously and astoundingly beautiful and only calls for your appreciation and applause. We need to know the difference.
Have you ever wished, as I often have when confronted with these images that the narrator can give the mic to the women and let them speak their reality, their truth? Do you ever get curious to hear how their voice would sound like. Would it be soft and soothing, aggressive, loud – would it be full of emotion? Will they choose to sing in to the microphone, smile or cry? I guess we will never know, unless we start to consciously amplify women’s voices.
We deserve to be heard because we all have stories to tell, what ever that story is. Being humble enough to listen to other stories is about embracing our common humanity irrespective of class, gender or race. It is Ubuntu – Ujamaa.
In this conversation, I am heeding a personal call that burns like hot coals to share African women’s stories and the threads that weaves our lives together.
shhh…listen…we may learn something, be moved to do something or simply burst into song and laughter. Come along, join the conversation. Akwaaba!
God Bless Africa!