I am somewhat obsessed with Ted talks, I watch them often and especially when I need inspiration. I have a clear bias when it comes to the Ted talks that I watch, they mostly have to be by an African or person of colour and it’s a plus when it’s by a woman. This is because women who look like me and are innovating and creating inspire me in ways that would need an entire blog post to explain, I digress. Last year I found this great Ted talk by Saki Mafundikwa and I will link it here ( https://www.ted.com/talks/saki_mafundikwa_ingenuity_and_elegance_in_ancient_african_alphabets ) so you can go watch it but there was one particular thing that really stood out for me. Sankofa.
Sankofa is symbolized by the above symbol and it’s from the Twi language of Ghana and it means ‘Return and get it.’ In the Ted talk, Saki explains it in the context of design and how we as Africans have such a rich history in design yet we keep looking to the west for inspiration. He explained that in order for us to create for our futures we can seek to learn and draw from our own history. This is something I have heard before, when Hugh Masekela was performing at the Safaricom Jazz Festival he talked about how we need to stop constantly copying from the west. I have been thinking about this but within the feminist context. We often say that feminism is un-African and it isn’t as easy to cite African feminist icons. I want to challenge that narrative by adding some amazing African feminists to our stories series. Here is our first one.
Hatshepsut was the second historically confirmed female pharaoh, the first being Sobekneferu. Hatshepsut was only the third woman to become pharaoh in 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history, and the first to attain the full power of the position. Her power grab was deemed highly controversial and she knew it, therefore, Hatshepsut fought to defend its legitimacy, pointing to her royal lineage and claiming that her father had appointed her his successor. She sought to reinvent her image, and in statues and paintings of that time, she ordered that she be portrayed as a male pharaoh, with a beard and large muscles. In other images, however, she appeared in traditional female regalia.
As pharaoh, Hatshepsut undertook ambitious building projects, particularly in the area around Thebes. Her greatest achievement was the enormous memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, considered one of the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt. Another great achievement of her reign was a trading expedition she authorized that brought back vast riches–including ivory, ebony, gold, leopard skins and incense–to Egypt from a distant land known as Punt (possibly modern-day Eritrea).
She died at around 1458 B.C. She was succeeded by Thutmose III who went on to rule for 30 years. Later in his reign he had almost all of the evidence of Hatshepsut’s rule–including the images of her as king on the temples and monuments she had built–eradicated, possibly to erase her example as a powerful female ruler, or to close the gap in the dynasty’s line of male succession. As a consequence, scholars of ancient Egypt knew little of Hatshepsut’s existence until 1822, when they were able to decode and read the hieroglyphics on the walls of Deir el-Bahri.
Who are some of your favourite historical African feminist icons? As always the comment section is open and so are our social media handles and email, so please drop a quick comment or send us a message because we still want to share your stories. Also we will be having our third volume of Safe Spaces next weekend. We will be visiting a shelter for sexually abused girls and young women. If you would like to join us please let me know down below or if you would like to donate something to the shelter as well let me know. As always sending, you all lots of love and light and thank you for being part of our online community 🙂