Dispatches from WOW 2012: Digital Tapestries

I was asked to participate in a WOW Bites session during the Southbank Centre's 2012 Women of the World Festival. Bites are short talks, inspiring ideas, achievements, obsessions, stories, performances, manifestos and more. I thought I'd share the essence of my bite with you.

Women-of-the-World-Digital-Tapestries-Pinterest

 

One of the most satisfying outcomes of spending so much time online is discovering interesting people doing exciting and amazing things. In my time internetting, I have discovered several women, around the world, using the digital space to tell their stories and through this: creating relationships that transcend barriers such as geographical distance and class; building supportive and collaborative networks and communities; and making things happen for themselves, for others and ultimately, for us all.

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

Highlights-from-Women-of-the-World-Festival-2012-Southbank-Centre

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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Interview with Minna Salami aka MsAfropolitan

Minna Salami MsAfropolitan 2

It's time to showcase the bloggers! Today I'm happy to share with you an interview with the beautiful Minna Salami, also known as MsAfropolitan. Vocal and passionate, she shares commentary on lifestyle and culture, from the perspective of being a cosmopolitan African woman. What I love about Minna's blog is that she often tackles challenging and controversial issues, and with such honesty (e.g. Mixed Race Girls have Issues, Smart Women should Watch Porn and Too Afrocentric for you?)! Read on to find out more about what this Finnish, feminist, Nigerian, pan-Africanist has to say.

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What's your passion?
I'm passionate about many causes and particularly, gender imbalance and African development. I'm doing an MA in Gender studies at SOAS at the moment, focusing on African women's studies. I'm also crazy about the written word. Blogging. Samba. Yoga. But my number one, ongoing, everlasting passion is with spirituality and humanity. 

MsAfropolitan

What inspired you to create MsAfropolitan?
All the above passions actually. 

What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge?
The greatest challenge to creativity has been the fallacy of perfectionism. As humans, it is inevitable that what we feel is important today might change tomorrow. It's been a challenge to learn to express myself freely without worrying that it might not represent who I am in future, but I have come to understand that nothing stifles creativity more than the need to create perfectly.

How have you dealt with/overcome it?
I've dealt with it by striving to create honestly. So for example, if I look back at something I wrote years ago and it makes me cringe, I remind myself that it might not have been perfect, but it was honest. And that's what creativity should be about – staying true to your present self. 

Minna-Salami-MsAfropolitan

 What has your greatest achievement been?
I'm grateful to be where I am in life, in a position where I can reach out to people and they can reach out to me and we can learn from each other. That makes me smile every day and means more to me than anything else. 

Where will you be in 10 years?
In the same place multiplied. Learning and teaching more.  

How does Africa inspire you?
Africa doesn't inspire me in or by itself. It is part of my evolution and I am part of its evolution and it's that evolving process that I draw inspiration from. From trying to understand its strengths and its weaknesses in order to try and grasp the wholeness. 

Anything else you'd like to share?
The MsAfropolitan boutique! I've created a platform to sell and showcase some of the creative labour of African Diaspora women and would like to share that, especially as I'm always on the lookout for new female entrepreneurs. 

MsAfropolitan-boutique

Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
New brands in the shop and more write ups on my blog and elsewhere!

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Photographs of Minna by Muyiwa Oguntoye