Tonight in The Woods, we're proud to be hosting Womanifesto, the brainchild of Makanaka Tuwe, or 'Maka', as she is affectionately known by friends. Providing a platform for talented women to speak of their experiences, as well as offering an open mic to any who are present and vibe with the nature of sharing and catharsis, we've long been enamoured with the projects Maka finds herself facilitating. So, naturally, we asked her how her brain works.
How did you come to spoken word?
I remember the first time I listened to spoken word, I was around the age of 15 and this lovely boy I was interested in sent me a link to Def Jam poetry ‘A penny for your thoughts’. Now I know 15 sounds young, but as an old soul and hopeless romantic, I remember eating the words of the poem and replaying them over and over and over again in my head.
As I got older, I became a fan of Def Jam poetry and can safely say there isn’t a piece I haven’t watched, debated, commented and reflected on. Sometime last year I started playing around with speaking, thing is I don’t see myself as much of a speaker, I just open my mouth and words start coming out. I haven’t mastered a stage persona and each time before I get on the stage I have goosebumps. Thing is, I wouldn’t even call myself a spoken word artist, I would call myself someone who enjoys putting words together.
When it comes to spoken word, I see myself more as a facilitator that works in collaboration with the speakers and the audience to create a safe space and environment for expression. In that facilitating space, I strongly believe spoken word is a way of expression that does not harm anyone or the environment.
Could you give us a little rundown on who is sharing tonight?
Tonight is going to be phenomenal, as the mic will be graced by electric women. What I love most is how diverse these women are not only at the level the eye can see, but their essences are different, their personalities, their work and their presence.
There is this pressure for women to look and act a particular way in order for them to be desirable or beautiful, and what I love about everyone sharing is that fearless difference that makes them beautiful. It actually irks my bones that I have to “praise” difference but what I am trying to get at is each speaker is comfortable in their skin and on a journey to continue connecting with the true essence of their being with a light and energy that is unique to them, that is in fact them and that’s inspirational.
On the line up we have Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala, Katana, Silva MC and Nina Asiedu; the event is open mic so I am looking forward to hearing from anyone and everyone who has something to say about their experiences with womanhood.
What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century?
It means to be continuously told of the progress that has been made while simultaneously being told what to do, what to say and being put in boxes.
Now, I don’t mean to sound like a down buzz, I love being a woman, I absolutely love it but at the same time the inequality has to be addressed. It’s almost like in the 21st century we have this “freedom” to be ourselves and to follow our dreams but still be told that the decisions we're making are wrong. It makes sense, though, because fundamentally we are still living in a patriarchal society that feeds off-putting us into boxes and “giving us freedom”. For instance, the woman who chooses to stay at home and raise a family is called lazy, and goes to the end of the earth to defend her decision, whilst at the same time the woman who chooses to not have children and pursue a career is ridiculed for her “rebellious” behaviour and told that her books aren’t going to keep her warm at night. Either way we are presented with these “choices,” only for us to be told that they are not good enough and we should be doing that instead. You cannot win, it’s a catch 22 all over the place. At the same time, you are still worrying about your safety because at times existing with a vagina makes you an object rather than a being, silenced about the struggles and experiences because apparently we have come so far and having to deal with closet misogynists.
On the flip side, I fucking love being a woman in the 21st century because there is this movement of owning our own identity and sticking it to the man/system/oppressor. Women are encouraged through sisterhood and different networks to be themselves and to exist in whatever spaces they want. We are shamed, oh heck yes we are, but I believe we have more strength than those before us to stand up for ourselves and for those who cannot stand up for themselves and still not give a damn about being shamed.
Does that make sense?
Oh yes, it does. Could you tell us what Africa on My Sleeve is?
Africa on My Sleeve is my love child birthed from my passion for the arts, social development and activism. Through that platform and collaboration, I host campaigns that combat issues relating to the identity and representation of people of African descent in the diaspora.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I have received is, “Do you boo boo, do what feels right for your soul”. For me, this was so important because for a long time I struggled with being myself and would generally live to seek the acceptance and validation of others, but I came to learn you can't please everyone.
If you are so busy pleasing everyone, who is pleasing you? You owe it to yourself to please yourself, look after yourself and do what feels right for your soul. In that advice is also the importance of self-love. Loving yourself gives you insight into yourself to the point where nothing can deceive you or oppress you. I can strongly declare that loving yourself is revolutionary! When you love yourself, there is no ego, you are learning to know yourself, appreciate your body and every single bit of yourself.