Dispatches from WOW 2012: Highlights from the 2012 Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre

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I spent this past weekend at the Women of the World Festival at London's Southbank Centre and enjoyed the most satisfying two days I've had all year. I left a little knackered and overwhelmed but also, and more importantly, inspired, rejuvenated, excited, blessed, grateful and generally feeling that I need to be spending more time around lots of women.

When I got home, I spent a couple of hours downloading all of this information to my partner and thought that breaking it down into chunks would be a better approach for the blog. Every day this week, I'll be sharing highlights from my time at the festival. You can look forward to:

  • Some great discoveries: organisations, artists, sites and people that you need to check out
  • Highlights from my WOW Bites presentation, Digital Tapestries
  • Celebrating fashion and why it's not frivolous
  • Female sexuality (from gender violence to being a lady, from racism to reclaiming the magazine stand!)
  • Food, identity and feminism

 

A funny anecdote antidote

One of the best moments I had at WOW was participating in a Funny Women workshop. Imagine a room full of 50 odd women, from different continents and varied backgrounds, probably ranging in age from 10 to 70. Funny Women founder, Lynne Parker, challenged us to drop our inhibitions for one hour, to be whoever we wanted to be and to look at ourselves through the eyes of the women who know us best. It was frightening, liberating and ultimately reaffirming. 

In one exercise, we had to impersonate our mothers, sisters or best friends and talk, in that character, about ourselves. To a complete stranger. It was amazing to find out that pretty much every woman in the room saw these mothers, sisters and friends as being proud of them. Enlightening how stepping outside yourself makes it so much easier to really see yourself. 

The candour and the vulnerability that was shared between this group of strangers shows just how much of a safe space a group of positive women can provide. A platform for you to jump forth, past doubt, fear and imagined barriers, through to making the life you want. As Lori Halford shares in things she learned this weekend, over on the official WOW blog:

"The best way to recover from the hardest times in your life is by finding support from those who truly understand what you’re going through."

 

Many narratives, one anthology

Throughout the weekend, it was interesting to see similar themes popping up at very diverse events. Themes like how our societies allow very narrow spaces in which we are 'allowed' to exist. Themes like the need for more awareness, especially when it comes to the subtle prejudices (to do with gender, race, religion, heritage and so much more) that so many of us (people, including women) can be complicit in propagating. It all reinforces that, as different as our backgrounds, experiences and lives may be, ultimately, we have a huge amount in common. And if that isn't a reason for solidarity … 

Stay tuned for more dispatches this week.

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Top Afri-love picks for the Women at the World Festival 2012, at London’s Southbank Centre

Women of the World Festival Southbank

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The Southbank Centre's Women of the World Festival returns this month to coincide with International Women's Day on Thursday 8th March. Celebrating the formidable strength and inventiveness of women, there is an even more exciting line-up of activities, talks, debates and performances than last year.

Continue reading “Top Afri-love picks for the Women at the World Festival 2012, at London’s Southbank Centre”

The best of 2011: Afri-love interviews

The motivation behind the Afri-love interview series is to demonstrate the possibilities that come with pursuing your passion. The interviews acknowledge that the path is challenging and they show how its travellers have persisted through adversity with wonderful results. As with the blog in general, there is a strong creative thread – poets, painters, musicians, designers, artists, writers and people creating change through activism.

Here's a round-up of some popular interviews from a diverse group of inspiring people:

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Interview with author and black film aficionado, Nadia Denton (left), and accessories designer Adele Dejak.

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Interview with poet, sports writer and musician, Musa Okwonga.

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Interview with feminist activist Amina Doherty aka sheroxlox (left) and multi-dimensional creative, Ann aka afrolicious.

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Interview with singer-songwriter, Amira Kheir.

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Interview with artist and photographer, Mutua Matheka.

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Interview with artist and creative consultant, Kesha Bruce (left) and artist, photographer and writer, Kameelah Rasheed.

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Interview with blogger, writer and commentator, Minna Salami, aka MsAfropolitan (left) and developer, author and entrepreneur, Andrew Mugoya.

What was your favourite interview?

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If you missed yesterday's best of 2011 installment, "African and Africa-inspired fashion, interior and furniture design," here it is.

Tune in for the rest of week for:

  • Thursday – Popular commentary posts (from technology to natural hair, from life lessons to identity)
  • Friday – Top music finds of 2011

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Interview with feminist activist Amina Doherty (aka sheroxlox!)

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I haven't yet met Amina Doherty in person but I love this woman! This 27 year old Nigerian feminist activist is inspiring as inspiring gets. Her work and her life is guided by a passion for creativity and an unshakable belief in the powerful agency we each have to make positive changes in our lives, our communities and the world.

Amina holds a BA in Political Science & Women’s Studies from McGill University and an MSc in Gender, Development and Globalization from the London School of Economics. Currently setting up FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, Amina has a range of experience working with organisations such as human rights funder The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Directorate of Gender Affairs in Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, Feminist Majority Foundation and Arts & Business.

A daughter of the Diaspora, London-based Amina has lived and studied in Africa. Here's her story, in her own words …

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What's your passion?
Over the years I have worked as a researcher, grantmaker, freelance writer, and community activist and in all of those roles, I have made a conscious effort to infuse my love for all forms of creative expression. I am passionate about music, poetry and spoken word, art, fashion and seeing new places. Driving all of these things however, is a love for life and an overwhelming belief that we should seek to live our lives with as much courage, adventure and love as we possibly can. My passion is Life itself.

What inspired you to be an activist in general, and specifically, to work on feminist issues?
For many years I struggled to call myself an “activist” in large part because I felt as though I wasn’t “activist” enough; as though the contributions I was making would never be enough to bring about the kinds of substantive social change that I wanted to see in the world. A world wherein people continue to be discriminated against on the basis of their race, gender, class, sexual preference, socio-economic position and other varying axes of inequality. 

However, over the years I have come to understand that what actually makes someone “activist” is a heartfelt and genuine commitment to change. Simply knowing that, as an individual, I have the potential to be powerful in whatever it is that I set my mind to, motivates me. I am driven by the understanding that the smallest acts can bring about the biggest changes … being an activist is simply about taking a stand (or a seat) and refusing to move to the back of the bus. 

Continue reading “Interview with feminist activist Amina Doherty (aka sheroxlox!)”

Top picks for the Women of the World (WOW) Festival, Southbank Centre, London

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The Southbank Centre annual Women of the World (WOW) Festival starts tomorrow and it's set to be a really great experience. Celebrating the formidable strength and inventiveness of women, it will feature music performances, films, comedy, theatre, poetry, as well as a three-day conference dealing with debates, talks, workshops, networking and mentoring opportunities.

Afri-love Highlights:

Continue reading “Top picks for the Women of the World (WOW) Festival, Southbank Centre, London”