I am the product of a system that reincarnates the greedy kings of the past who sold their own to the oppression of slave chains, only now it’s not slavery but colonialism, not colonialism but capitalism. (“The Broken Mirror: To Teach a People to Hate themselves…”, by Nana Akosua Hanson)
It is with these verses by Nana Akosua Hanson that we want to present AfroWomenPoetry, a repertoire of poems written and performed by African female poets.
Nowadays, these passionate, beautiful and highly self-conscious women still have to face the lasting traces of colonialism, and they are building their identity in the Present while dealing with the Past. This project aims at explaining Africa through the eyes of women, by giving voice to African poets and room to their verses. Poetry accounts for an important instrument, a “free zone” – as the founder of the project, Antonella Sinopoli, editor in chief of Voci Globali, use to say – that allows people to express themselves freely. This is exactly what happened to Akosua, the author of “The Broken Mirror”. She is a poet, a writer, a TV and radio host, and MPhil at the University of Ghana, where she is doing research on rape culture in Accra. As she recollects, poetry has always been a loyal companion since a very young age.
I started writing poetry since I was a child, it was my way of questioning the issues I had in my head, and talking about it, expressing myself about it. So I started with topics like love, of course, and eventually, with my panafrican consciousness, I started writing a lot about panafricanism, feminism, gender equality. Basically anything that I wanted to answer, to question about.
“AfroWomenPoetry” started a few months ago in Ghana, a country where women hold an important role in society, politics and entrepreneurial activity. Yet cultural differences and the supremacy of sexist traditions restrict women’s emancipation and limit their chances of personal growth and free thinking. All the artists we contacted responded with enthusiasm to the project when invited to take part in it.
However, at first we tried to know them better, to create trust between us before starting to work. It was only after gradually establishing this bond that we entered their houses – where they warmly welcomed us – to record them performing their art. It was as if we had known each other for a long time, a special connection made possibile by their poems, by the profound topics and intense personal stories they explored.
The artists’ verses blend together themes, feelings and emotions that shape the modern African woman’s identity, ranging from domestic violence, century-long oppressive traditions, to the longing for independence and autonomy, feminism and pride in being African. One recurring thread is the beauty of the African woman, which is often neglected and has to bend to the Western beauty standards instead.
I am the beautiful black girl that burns out her curls for blonde bangs
I am no longer the black washed away with this hot white bleach
I am the slave to the trinkets of my age
I am an individual that stands alone, not the US of my ancestral past
I am the successful experiment of a mind removed and replaced with a self-defeating fake
Zombie with no soul but a self-destructive spirit
On this platform you may find a short introduction video, in which each poet presents herself. An essential feature of the website is the multilingual option: transcriptions of each poem, performed in a video by the artist, are included in the website, both in their original version – in English for now – and translated into Italian. It is also possible to access the videos via a YouTube channel, which features a short explanation of the texts. The next step is to collect works from female poets in Togo, so a French version will also be included.
“AfroWomenPoetry” is still in its infancy but, with baby steps and steady, unshakeable motivation, its ultimate and ambitious goal is to expand to several other Sub-Saharan countries. These poets aim to open minds and widen the global knowledge about Africa and its women.