News

Bodies That Matter: The African History of Naked Protest, FEMEN Aside

FEMEN continues to gain more visibility for naked protest, yet many fail to recognize that naked protest has long been a strategy in African history.


If you're unfamiliar, FEMEN is a Ukraine based feminist group with chapters throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. FEMEN has been making waves for the past year now, through their chosen method of activism: naked protest. While the method has gained popularity and visibility in the mainstream, it has also been problematized by feminists in other parts of the world. This past November, when Egyptian feminist Alia al-Mahdy posted photos of her naked body wrapped in an Egyptian flag, there was a huge debate over the use of the method as an example of European feminists imposing their values onto Third world feminism/Islamic feminism. Sara Mourad has already provided an excellent analysis contextualizing the debates surrounding Alia's naked body, which is in many ways applicable to the latest manifestation of FEMEN's tactics in Tunisia, via the naked body of Amina Tyler. Tyler's naked protest has been the topic du jour particularly because of the call for her to be punished with at least 80 to 100 lashes, or actually death by stoning.

Maroud highlights how many women of color feminists have taken issue with what they consider a clear example of imperial feminism, through importing western understandings of nakedness onto Islamic notions of the body; I want to draw attention to what continues to be overlooked. It seems that no one is emphasizing the fact that these white feminists do not own the method they have chosen to declare as their call to arms against patriarchy. In short, before we discuss how FEMEN is engaging in somewhat problematic dynamics with women of color feminists throughout the Middle East & North Africa region, we should recall that their chosen method of protest is certainly not exclusive to white European feminists. Have we forgotten the naked protests that have taken place in Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya and Uganda for over a century? While the conversations surrounding FEMEN's growing presence in the MENA region certainly highlight valid arguments about Western feminism and how it relates to other notions of feminism/womanism throughout the globe, what I find to be the greatest example of liberalism is that they've managed to convince us that they own the method and in some ways, how we understand our own nakedness.

What is arguably one of the most powerful manifestations of naked protest over the past century took place during the Women's War in Eastern Nigeria (1929) and was a significant manifestation of black women's resistance to colonial authority and racialised Western notions of the body. The significance of the history of this method continues to manifest in naked protests, which have taken place in West, East, and Southern Africa as recently as December 2012. Yet these black women and their unyielding fearlessness to literally put their bodies on the line and stand against multinational oil companies, corruption, and violence, receive little visibility in the mainstream. Sometimes, even in their own countries, their commitment and strength is dismissed as foolish, unfruitful and futile.

In this era of social media and new technologies FEMEN's tactics are able to gain notice through their chosen mediums of expression and well connected network. The issue is not so much that they use naked protest as a method, but rather that we continue to confuse our disapproval of how their tactics mimic imperial feminism with the method itself. In other words, FEMEN's expansion into the Middle East and North Africa is likely a glaring example of imperial feminism, but not because of the method. Women of color, specifically throughout the continent have been using naked protest and genital cursing for centuries to express their intolerance and perform resistance. FEMEN's naked bodies aren't the only bodies making waves- while their tactics are highly visible, they have yet to shut down an entire oil facility for seven days with the simple threat of disrobing.

African History Story by OKA Contributor: Maryam Kazeem

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

Keep reading... Show less
Style
Image: David Omigie, creative director of Daltimore, wears a contrast-panel, overlap leather jacket from Daltimore

How Nigerian Streetwear Brand, Daltimore, is Rising To Celebrity Status

We spoke with founder and creative director David Omigie about expression through clothing and that #BBNaija pic.

Backstage at her first live performance at the Big Brother Naija eviction show in July, Mavin's music starlet Ayra Starr posed for Instagram wearing a custom, ivory two-piece outfit. The 19-year-old posed wearing a slinky bandeau crop top with a metallic accent, and high waist baggy pants paired with opera fingerless gloves. The outfit is reminiscent of the same chic, carnal athleticism seen in Ayra's video for Bad Samaritan, where she wears both a custom fur coat and a monochromatic red leather outfit. Both looks are the work of Nigerian streetwear brand Daltimore.

These moments of fashion aren't happening in isolation. Streetwear has a stronghold on Nigerian youth culture, especially in Lagos, often troping around the resurgence of Y2K aesthetics that have begun to influence the buzzing profiles of Gen Z artists, fashion influencers, and entertainers. Bucket hats, crop tops, baguette bags, baggy jeans, mini skirts, and so on. Enter Daltimore, seizing the moment by signposting how these cultural pulses are intersecting. At first, the brand didn't eschew streetwear's disruptive tendencies when founded by its creative director David Omigie in 2015. The brand name is significant for David, to immortalize his late brother. Baltimore was his nickname back in high school.

This isn't the only familial death David has experienced to inspire the Daltimore footprint. The debut collection embraced simple, conservative tailoring, dashiki tunics, and shift dresses that stayed slightly loose on the body. Blending in casual touches like jeans and sneakers to keep it modern, the collection in hindsight appeared to be foreshadowing possibilities in streetwear. With a wave of terrorist attacks in Northern Nigeria and the unfair stereotyping of the region as violent and hostile, Daltimore shifted focus to the region's culture and iconography to dispel media narratives for its 2018 collection.

Translating the aridity of the North into invigorating brown close to the shade of pecan, Daltimore's 2018 collection featured clothes columned into long skirts, sleeveless kaftans with large white patch pockets, and head wraps. In finding its own design language, the brand has created a tension that sits between tradition and modernity. To that end, cowries on a zip-up leather jacket illustrate this intermingling or basketweave embellishment on a tote bag. Embracing the broader, aggressive aspects of streetwear was only a matter of time. Look at a Daltimore ensemble and there would typically be a harness looping around the wearer, vests and bomber jackets in neon colors, bags with sling chains, and velcro straps. And lots of leather.

From 2Baba, Blaqbonez, Joeboy, Fireboy DML, Dremo, Lady Donli to Toke Makinwa, Dare Art-Alade, Ric Hassani, Oxlade, Daltimore has accrued an impressive list of celebrity fans in a relatively short time. In this OkayAfrica interview, David shares his motivation for going into fashion, how he's been navigating the industry, and defines streetwear from his vantage point.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Photos courtesy of Damilola and Odunayo

Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi Are Bringing African Discovery To the World

We spoke with the Nigerian tech gurus about their app Backdrop and how to make it on the continent and sell to the world.

Have you ever wished you had the resources to easily find picture-perfect, photo-worthy spots in any and every new city you visit? If you said, 'No', you're lying. If you said 'Yes', then, welcome.

A rather nice problem that many travel lovers run into is not knowing where to take beautiful pictures and most importantly, what to do with them if you're not a fan of photo-sharing apps that already exist. With the world opening back up for travel and adventure, the eagerness to go out and experience and capture something different is palpable.

Well, while some have spent their time creating Pinterest boards of #vacationgoals, Timi Ajiboye, Damilola Odufuwa, and Odunayo Eweniyi were using their resources to create new ways for us to enjoy beautiful things, namely their new app Backdrop.

The Nigerian crypto, tech, and digital media successes banded together to create Backdrop; a photo-sharing social media app dedicated to travel, discovery, and creating memories through photography. It can't be denied that social media has changed the way in which we connect and share our lives with the world around us. Aesthetically pleasing and conversation-provoking images and videos are how we take part in the global village and allows us to witness the creativity and world experiences from millions across the world - all from the comfort of our smartphones.

The app focuses on discovering new places - abroad or in your own home city - and merges tech, social media, and travel to do so. Above and beyond the desire to get users to romanticize their lives and escapades, the app gives space to local restaurants, store-fronts, and attractions and their abilities to create buzz around themselves through positive user experiences and intentionally picturesque establishments. The app is free, easy, and solely focused on travel, making it a go-to travel companion.

Through their love for travel, education, real-world experiences, and expertise in their respective fields, the 3 long-time friends have curated a space eager to find a country's coolest photo spots, and your own hometown may surprise you.

We spoke to 2 out of the 3 minds behind the app about being African women in tech, their new app development, and how they plan to use Backdrop to serve a specific niche in the market.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

Blood & Water is Khosi Ngema's Moment - and She’s Enjoying It

We spoke with the South African actress about her hit TV show and being Gabrielle Union's #WCW.

8 Contemporary Ethiopian Artists to Check Out

Featuring Skat Nati, Iri Di, Ethiopian Records, Kelela, Batisso and more.

GAME OF THORNS

Winter is coming to the Horn of Africa. The conflict in Northern Ethiopia is having ripple effects throughout the region. The map of the Horn may be changed irrevocably. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Here is a quick way to understand the politics.

popular.

Cassper Nyovest On South Africa's Amapiano Revolution

The South African star rapper takes a deep dive into the rise of amapiano and what it means for him, his music, and the entire nation in this new exclusive interview.