Arts + Culture

Mother Africa: 12 Iconic Women Who Have Shaped Our Culture

This Mother's Day, we celebrate iconic African women throughout history who have helped shape and create culture.

DIASPORA—The world would be much less soulful without the contributions of African women.


Throughout history, women from the continent have created culture through their exemplary activism, leadership, creativity and overall brilliance—and they continue to do so each and everyday.

This Mother's Day, we take a look at some of the iconic African women who have helped shaped culture in their own way. From legendary musicians and leaders to prolific writers and social activists, here are 12 iconic African women whose indelible legacies keep us inspired.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti 

The teacher, politician and aristocrat was a champion of women's suffrage in Nigeria. She was also the first woman in the country to drive a car. To top it all off, she's responsible for bringing Fela Kuti into the world.

Quote: "As for the charges against me, I am unconcerned. I am beyond their timid lying morality so I am beyond caring."

Angelique Kidjo

The influential Beninese musician is often considered the "Queen of African Music" and she has the Grammys to prove it. Kidjo is also an activist and global ambassador, helping spread African music and artistry to the world one happy dance at a time.

Quote: "We woman around the globe, we carry the world on our back. We build society."

Wangari Maathai

The celebrated Kenyan environmental political activist was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her dedication to "sustainable development, democracy and peace."

Quote: "African women in general need to know that it's ok for them to be the way they are—to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence."

Iman

Aside form never aging, the iconic Somali supermodel and philanthropist has broken barriers for black women in the beauty world. She remains dedicated to creating products that cater to the needs of women of color and championing diversity.

Quote: "The women I gravitate to are the ones who defy convention and reinvent themselves - hence, they reinvent the world around them."

Queen Nzinga 

Born in 1553, Queen Anna Nzinga, was the leader of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola. She was a strategic ruler who fought bravely against the Portuguese slave trade in Angola. Talk about a boss.

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Flora Nwapa

Often referred to as "The mother of modern African literature," the Nigerian writer became the first African woman to be published in the English language in 1966. She received international acclaim for her debut novel Efuruand became one of the first African women publishers in 1970.

Quote: “When I do write about women in Nigeria, in Africa, I try to paint a positive picture about women because there are many women who are very, very positive in their thinking, who are very, very independent and very, very industrious.”

Nefertiti 

The Egyptian queen's iconic bust has become a ubiquitous symbol of black female power. Nefertiti ruled ancient Egypt alongside her husband, Akhenaten during its wealthiest period, transforming Egyptian society through an unprecedented religious and economic revolution.

Safi Faye

The prolific Senegalese filmmaker was the first African woman to direct a feature film. Her first short, La Passante (1972), chronicled her experience as a Black woman living in Paris. She's received international acclaim for her ethnographic films, which examine everyday life in Senegal through an intimate yet critical lens.

Sade Adu

The British-Nigerian singer is the queen of cool. Her songs, voice, style and persona are undeniably timeless and her trailblazing career serves as a model for Black-British women in the arts. In 2002 she was awarded an Order of the British Empire for services to music.

Quote: "I just aspire to pick people up. That's my ambition."

Miriam Makeba 

Affectionately known as "Mama Africa," the South African singer won over audiences across the globe with her infectious charm and striking voice. Her work was about more than just singing, though—she was equally vocal when speaking out against racial injustices during the Civil Rights Movement.

Quote: “Age is getting to know all the ways the world turns, so that if you cannot turn the world the way you want, you can at least get out of the way so you won't get run over.”

Queen Amina

The Hausa Muslim Queen Warrior was believed to have ruled what is now, Northern Nigeria in the mid-15th century. She was a fierce warrior who helped the kingdom of Zaria expand and become a center for trade. She is also credited with introducing the cultivation of kola nuts in the region.

Brenda Fassie 

The South African singer was known as the "Queen of African Pop." Not only was she an unforgettable performer, she was also an anti-apartheid spokesperson who used her music and one-of-a-kind personality to lash out against an unjust system.

Quote: "I'm not going to start justifying my character. The way I am is the way I am, so take me as I am. If I want to do anything, anywhere with anybody, that's what I want to do and that's nobodies business."

 

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(From left to right) Stéphane Bak and Marc Zinga in 'The Mercy of the Jungle.' Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Congolese Actor Stéphane Bak on His Intense Experience Shooting 'The Mercy of the Jungle' In Uganda

We catch up with the actor after the film made its North American premiere at TIFF.

When actor Stéphane Bak first got the script for The Mercy of the Jungle (La Miséricorde de la Jungle), he knew there was one person he had to consult: his father. "My dad did school me about this," he says. While Bak was born and raised in France, his parents had emigrated from what was then Zaire in the 1980s—before the events of the movie, and not exactly in the same area, but close enough to be able to pass on firsthand knowledge of the simmering ethnic tensions that underpin the action.

The story takes place in 1998, just after the outbreak of the Second Congo War—which came hot on the heels of the First Congo War. Two Rwandan soldiers find themselves separated from their company and have to make a harrowing trek through the jungle to link back up with their regiment. Bak plays Private Faustin, the young recruit hunting Hutu rebels to avenge his murdered family, a foil to Marc Zinga's seasoned Sergeant Xavier. As a Congolese militia swarms the area, and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell enemies from friends, the two are forced off the road and into the thick vegetation.

Their journey is physically difficult, but the jungle also nurtures them, providing food, water, and shelter. "The title is very explicit in a way," says Bak. It is the human beings they encounter, from rival soldiers and militiamen to the hostile security forces guarding illegal gold mining operations, who bring sudden danger and violence. The challenges are conveyed as much through the actors' physicality as through the minimal dialogue. As for the strain on his face, Bak says it was all real. "To be honest, it was very difficult," he says of the shoot, which took him 25 days. "I had to learn my accent in two weeks." Prior to commencing, there was training with the Ugandan army for realism. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, the movie itself was shot in Uganda.

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Brazil Has Made Yoruba an Official Language

The language will also be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum in the country, says the Minister of Culture.

Yoruba history and culture has an undeniably strong presence in Brazilian society, due of course, to the Transatlantic slave trade which brought millions of enslaved West Africans to the Americas. Despite the inhumanity they faced, many managed to keep their ancestral culture and traditions alive.

Centuries have passed, and Yoruba influences still continue to thrive in various regions of the country, as many Brazilians maintain a strong relationship with the language and religion. Its influence can be seen through the music, food and spiritual practices of various communities. Last month the Ooni of Ife—the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people—visited the country, where he was met by crowds of Black Brazilians who turned up to pay their respects.

This connection will likely remain strong for future generations, as the language has now become an official foreign language in the country.

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Brazil's Minister of Culture, Dr. Sérgio Sá Leitão, has said that the language will now be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum, reports the Nigerian Voice.

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This EP Blends the Afro-Brazilian Rhythms of Bahia With Bass Music

Get into Telefunksoul and Felipe Pomar's Ré_Con Ba$$ EP.

Brazilian producers Felipe Pomar (of TrapFunk & Alivio) and Telefunksoul come through with a dizzyingly energetic EP in the form of Ré_Con Ba$$.

Telefunksoul, who happens to be one of the main promoters of Bahia Bass music, came up with the concept of exploring the rhythms coming out of Recôncavo of Bahia and showing how they can fit into bass music.

Through the 7-track Ré_Con Ba$$ EP, him and Pomar mold and transform the diverse music of Bahia, fusing its rhythms with afrobeat, future house, deep house and much more.

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