L-R Gloria Ojulari Sule a British Nigerian Visual Artist and Yvonne Brennan an Irish Ghanaian Musician, Songwriter and Author of Small mercies sharing a moment.
On my way back from WOW – Women of the World festival, I felt so WOWed that I had to write this facebook status.
‘When a woman is confident and speaks eloquently, intelligently and passionately it’s the sexiest thing in the damn world!’
The beauty of this festival held annually at Southbank Centre in London is that it attracts extraordinary women from all walks of life who have very valid experiences and concerns to share.
I could write about the events, exhibitions, debates and films, but that is not the long-lasting impression you’re left with after a day at WOW festival. The word that resonates is FREEDOM, the freedom to attend. To listen to women who have the freedom to speak and reciprocating because you have the freedom to share.
For most attendees the highlight was listening to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived an attempted assassination. Malala did not have as much freedom to speak, so when she put her concerns in words it nearly cost her, her life. Speaking at the We Day youth empowerment event yesterday she said: “I had two options, not to speak and die, or to speak and then die. I chose the second one.” To a packed audience at WOW festival she advised women in the UK to use social media to highlight issue’s girls are facing in India and Pakistani so that they know someone is speaking out for them.
I attended the Weave vs Natural? The Politics of Afro Hair talk chaired by British–Eritrean writer and journalist Hannah Pool and the Being Mixed Raced panel discussion and workshop led by Irish-Nigerian PhD Researcher Emma Dabiri. What I really enjoyed about both talks was the confident, intelligent and eloquently spoken women who felt they had the freedom to voice their opinions, ask questions, challenge the panel and share their experiences.
In closing I’d like to leave you with quotes from panel members and the audience.
Weave vs Natural? The Politics of Afro Hair
Panel Speakers L-R – Crystal Afro of KinKdom, Natalie Clue of Beauty Pulse London, Hannah Pool Author of My Fathers Daughter, Angel Dike of The Natural Lounge and Sandie Okoro Chief Legal Counsel at HSBC
‘I confess to being a young girl, putting a towel over my head to emulate long blonde hair now I’m in love with my Afro’ – Hannah Pool
‘My hair is my accessory to express how I feel. Having the option to change it is my choice as a woman’ – Natalie Clue – Beauty Pulse London
‘Why don’t we engage in a discussion about healthy hair, rather than the politics of our hair’ – Audience Member
‘Be yourself, be comfortable with your hairstyle. If you try to be something other than yourself then you cant be comfortable with anything let alone your hair’. – Sandie Okoro – Chief Legal Counsel at HSBC
‘Natural hair is not a new movement, just because people blog and vlog about it doesn’t make it a movement, my mother and grandmother has been wearing their hair natural since the beginning of time’ – Audience Member
‘There is no avoiding the history and politics behind Afro hair, but we should not apply hierarchy to hair type, we are all different’ – Crystal Afro – Blogger of KinKdom
‘You are all older and self-assured women, what about the young impressionable women who are having real issues with their hair in schools. How are we going to address that and why don’t you consider doing talks in schools’. – Audience Member
Being Mixed Raced
Panel Speakers L-R Emma Dabiri Phd Researcher, Yvonne Brennan Author of Small Mercies, Sunita Pandya, Arts Producer at Southbank Centre and Artist Phoebe Collings-James
‘I was brought up in a white environment with Nuns who tried to stamp out my blackness because it was seen as dirty’ – Yvonne Brennan – Irish Ghanaian Author of Small Mercies
‘In my opinion I was British and that’s how I identified, until I went to university, was around the different sides of my family and started working. I became known as exotic at Uni, too contemporary for my Indian and Maltese family and either too Asian or not Asian enough with a name like Sunita’ – Sunita Pandya – Arts Producer at Southbank Centre
‘Why do people think its ok to ask ‘what are you?’ when they can’t figure out where you’re from’ – Audience Member
‘It shouldn’t be about colour, its about individuality’ – Yvonne Brennan author of Small Mercies
‘My dad is a tall black man with locs, my mum is white, my sister looks Indian and I’m fairer than my sister. Everything in my home made sense but the outside world treated us differently’. - Artist Phoebe Collings-James
‘I feel fortunate that I was raised by a Black mother who taught me about my history and was able to prepare me for the fact that the outside world would see me as a black woman even though I am mixed and my dad is white’ – Audience Member
‘I am a Jamaican woman and I am about to get married to an Italian man, I was extremely nervous when we travelled to Sicily to met his family, but it all panned out fine’ – Audience Member
‘Among white people you are black and among black people you are white, you just have to love and accept yourself as a person and embrace the two beautiful cultures you have’ – Audience Member