The beautiful one that pleases my heart
Towera, meaining 'the beautiful one that pleases my heart.’
As I gazed into the beautiful brown eyes of my five week old daughter through the lens of my camera, I pondered the narrative of the African Woman; the assumption of weakness, stigma of disabling poverty and hardship that automatically come with it. I realised that she would carry these as a heavy weight on her shoulders simply by being born of me unless I give her an alternative narrative, a different story of what an African Woman is and could be in her story...The endless possibilities that a different perspective can give.
Whilst I could not change her gender, race or country of origin, which to some may be her biggest hurdles; I realised that I would have to deliberately impart in her a passion for ‘Self’. I would have to spark a creative fire deep within her soul that would allow her to see beyond the lens that would keep her frozen in this debilitating frame that is the global view of, ‘The [African] Girl Child’. I would show her ‘how I made it in Africa’, how I wrote my own story and decided to be all I could be firmly living outside the ‘proverbial box’.
I will teach her all my parents taught me; the belief that regardless of my gender, creed or colour, I too could be a ‘force of nature’ that the world would have to sit up and take notice of. Being an African Woman is not a curse or a cross she has to bare, but a badge of honour for those who embrace all that it means. I will show her through my life story that she can be everything her heart desires and all that her talents enable her to be.
I was raised in a time where a black African’s aspirations where limited to professions as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer...something with a perceived gravitas that is attained by consistent and focused study, the more ‘certificates’ the better right up to the coveted ‘doctorate’ level which for many represents the ‘holy grail’. For a ‘girl child’ to be taken seriously, this need for formal education is not just an aspiration but a heavy burden and not easily accessible for the majority. Creative talent / skills are viewed as hobbies at best and a waste of time for the formally uneducated girl. I found myself passionate about photography whilst in law school as a result of these social views. My traditional African parents chose to be supportive of my ‘art’ but they were insistent that I become a professional as ‘one cannot live on art in this world’. Without hindrance or the stiff resistance which the average female artist would face before she looked beyond the borders of her home, I was free to write a different narrative. I pursued photography passionately whilst fulfilling my commitment to study. I follow all my dreams and do so with passion and without apology. The result is that I am genuinely ‘all I can [and want to] be’. This gift my parents gave me I will pass on to my daughter, emancipating her from social and traditional views of what she can be because she is a black African Woman.
For Towera I persevere, I continue to dream and hold fast to the belief that every woman can be whatever she wants to be and that she should embrace every opportunity that comes her way. I will keep on living life in full colour not just in black and white. I will continue to express myself creatively with my camera and tell my story and the stories of other women like me who dare to write a different narrative of the black African Girl Child. I will strive to be the best version of myself and ultimately I will stand tall with pride and embrace the names that tell the different elements of my story and make me who I am.