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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Burna Boy, Angelique Kidjo, Trevor Noah & More Earn 2020 Grammy Nominations

Wizkid, Shatta Wale and more were nominated for their work on Beyoncé's 'Lion King: The Gift' while Mr Eazi earned a nod for his contribution to Bad Bunny and J Balvin's 'Oasis.'

The 2020 Grammy nominations have just been announced, and it looks to be a standout year for African artist.

Burna Boy has earned his first-ever nomination in the (albeit dubious) 'Best World Music' category for his celebrated album African Giant. Speaking with Grammy.com about the vision for the album back in August, the artist said: My vision is just to...shine a light on a place and on people and a situation and everything that there hasn't been a light on for a long time."

In that same category is three-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo for her album Celia, which pays homage to the late Afro-Cuban legend Celia Cruz. Burna and Kidjo worked together on the track "Different" from African Giant.

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Image via Wikimedia

Google Honors Nigerian Feminist Icon, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, With Doodle

Today would have been the Nigerian trailblazer's 119th birthday.

Pay your Google Doodle extra attention today. It is honoring Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, an activist, teacher and politician, on her birthday. She would have been 119 today. Ransome-Kuti became a prominent Nigerian icon as she fought for women's rights, including women's right to vote, and was constantly breaking barriers—including being the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car and ride a motorcycle. Her work earned her two beloved monikers: "The Lioness of Lisabi" and "The Mother of Africa." If that wasn't enough, she's also Fela Kuti's mom.

The doodle, illustrated by Nigerian-Italian artist Diana Ejaita, blends Ransome-Kuti's accomplishments into Google's logo and show her actions reflected in women who bear her likeness. The artist is known for using stark blacks and soft colors to show the "strength of femininity," perfect in a portrait of Ransome-Kuti. If you can't view the doodle automatically, that is because it will only show up for searches in Nigeria. But, don't worry, check it out via Google Doodle's twitter post below.

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GuiltyBeatz, Kwesi Arthur & Mr Eazi's "Pilolo" visualizer video (Youtube).

The 20 Best Ghanaian Songs of 2019

Featuring Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, Amaarae, Kwesi Arthur, Shatta Wale, Efya GuiltyBeatz, Joey B, R2Bees and many more.

2019 was definitely an exciting year for Ghanaian music.

Right from the top of the year, we saw both new and established make their mark with songs that would soundtrack the nation's airwaves, functions, and nights for months to come. In 2019 we got to experience an E.L comeback, Shatta Wale and Beyoncé on the same song, numerous solid Ghana-Naija collaborations, and bop after bop by old and new artists alike.

We also saw the rise of brand new artists, starting from the likes of J.Derobie's wave making debut in January, to Kofi Mole's widespread trap anthem, to Fameye's declaration of brokeness, to the promising future superstar Sam Opoku. As far as projects go, 2019 was a good year for that in the Ghana music space as well. We were blessed with an EP from Sarkodie, an album by the superstar duo R2Bees, talented singer King Promise's debut album, Ko-Jo Cue's stellar debut, and M.anifest's 7-track feel-good EP, among several others.

Ghanaian music has been stepping its game up lately, and there's only one way to go from here. Below, we give you the rundown on the Ghanaian songs that stole ears and hearts and set the pace for the country's sound this year.

Check out the list below. Listen in no particular order.—Nnamdi Okirike

Follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for AFI)

Cynthia Erivo Earns Golden Globe Nomination for 'Harriet'

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees (and the snubs).

Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman in Harriet. She's earned a nomination for Best Original Song for 'Stand Up."

She's nominated in the "Best Performance by an Actress In a Motion Picture—Drama" alongside Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Renée Zellwegger and Saoirse Ronan.

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