Listen to the talented Cameroonian singer/rapper/songwriter Lorine Chia.
University sometimes leaves me uninspired and depressed, politics and grammar rob me of my creativity and drown me in a sea of confusion and self-doubt (and upon entering year 3, future anxieties). Writing helps, except without inspiration I have nothing to write about. In such infertile times, more than ever, I seek help from female artists who have previously and continue to greatly influence my life within and without the creative sphere. Looking at other women’s accomplishments and understanding their struggles and more importantly how they overcome them always helps me to get back on my path of self-discovery and growth. I once read that hardly any writer can escape the overwhelming feeling of senselessness as heightened sensibility and the ability to suffer are part of any creative process. Those phases are usually followed by an increase in creative growth and output, so until I will have overcome this writing block, I want to introduce you to some of the amazing artists that are shaping me and teaching me how to deal with life. May you be inspired too!
If I am perfectly honest, I see my near future becoming an alarming and exciting resemblance of Spike Lee’s Nola Darling. I know I gotta have it! However I also know I ain’t got it yet and that I still have a long road between me and success. The goal is to make this road as informative and beneficial as possible, to be carefree and to be beautiful, to concern myself with the free (black) female form and to never give up even when all the little side hustles that barely pay the rent seem to become too much. To me, Nola Darling stands for impulsive living, good music and cinephilia and most importantly for not punishing ourselves for the mistakes we make, because the world is already harsh enough on us. She also stands for many other things that I don’t necessarily agree with or feel like I can’t judge, which means that I need to educate myself a lot more and be more (self-)critical. Still, I admire her as an artist and free spirit and I also share her fears and relate to many of her experiences and opinions.
On a more serious note, a woman I actually deeply relate to is Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poetess, writer, illustrator and performer of Punjabi descent who emigrated to Canada at the age of four. She published the two books “milk and honey” and “the sun and her flowers” which deal with violence, love, feminism, loss and healing. Although my identity is so far removed from hers, no one has ever articulated my feelings as perfectly as she has, certainly not myself. Rupi is open and honest about depression, she teaches us about the consequences of invading someone else’s body, about how to overcome pain and about sisterhood. Most importantly, she teaches us how to love ourselves and value ourselves no matter how little others may value us. Her poetry makes me cry on a Friday night and it makes me wake up stronger on a Saturday morning, because her words reassure me that I am not alone.
Another artist that inspires me daily is the Nigerian-Malaysian creative Yagazie Emezi. She is a self-taught photographer from Aba, Nigeria, who concerns herself with topics such as how trauma survivors left with significant scarring adapt to their new bodies as well as sex, sex-education and education for girls in at-risk communities. She raises awareness for mental health, body image disorders and shows me that it is possible to travel for work and make a living as a creative. However she also stresses that success often seems to erase the work that is being put in before, after and during and that it is important to remember that successful people are always on their grind. Her plans are to publish an online magazine where she showcases the work of unknown African photographers and in the meantime, she draws little cartoons, runs a youtube channel and exhibits her work internationally. We need more genuine creatives like her, women who are pure and honest and talented and find this purity in the people they document.
Familiar holdings. “It’s not quite the absence of a Western beauty standard,” Yagazie reminded me. “It’s the fact that there’s even another standard at all, one that’s well-established. In the West, this would be represented by the body positive movement, but in Liberia, it’s not a movement. It’s already there, it’s already included.” -written by @azemezi. For @voguemagazine highlighting beauty and acceptance in Monrovia, Liberia among a select number of women in the over-populated West Point slum. #yagazieemezi #emeziexcellence #liberia #documentaryphotography #westpoint #liberia #everydayafrica #everydayeverywhere #beauty
Bringing African culture to international audiences is also Alsarah, a Sudanese, more specifically Nubian, singer and band leader based in New York. She gave a concert and life interview in Nuremberg in August 2017 and I was lucky enough to hear some of her wisdom about what it means to be unsure of how to define home, what it means to be in between cultures and what it means to inhabit the political body of a black Arabic speaking woman in today’s societies. She sings in Arabic, her genre is called East African Retro Pop and she uses her art to raise awareness of the world we live in, where borders and colonialism and dictators define the land we live on, where are Muslim (travel) ban only comes as a surprise to those who are not affected by it anyways. She was also part of the documentary “Beats of the Antonov“, directed by Hajooj Kuka. It tells the “story of the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan, showing how they deal with civil war. Traditionally music has always been part of daily life in these areas, but now, it has a new role in a society challenged by war.” (IMDb) Beats of the Antonov won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
Last but not least the wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist and feminist we should all know by now. Our love story began when I chose her feature in Beyonce’s Flawless as my graduation song, when she empowered me while I was walking up to receive my high school diploma. She has published four books that have been translated into more than 30 languages and her essays are becoming an integral part of the reading lists of American students. Moreover, “We should all be feminists” was made into a bag by Christian Dior. Her latest work “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” teaches a young mother how to raise her daughter to become a feminist. We should all take this advice to heart, especially No. 8: “Teach her to reject likability. Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.” and No. 15: “Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference.”
Compilation by Amuna Wagner