Get to Know: Les Amazones d’Afrique

by Adanya

Dismantling the patriarchy has always been a relevant topic, but as #MeToo and similar movements gain popularity, the concept has gotten more attention in the media. Unfortunately, although these movements have spread across the planet, they’ve struggled to take off in many areas of the world, including West Africa. Additionally, despite #MeToo having been started by Tarana Burke, a Black woman, these movements have largely neglected the voices and stories of Black women and other marginalized communities. Thankfully, activists including Burke herself and Les Amazones d’Afrique have never allowed themselves to be silenced.

Les Amazones d’Afrique is a feminist supergroup whose music is an assertion of power, a declaration to the world. Les Amazones formed in 2015 and released their debut album, “République Amazone,” in 2017. The group sings songs of female empowerment like their first single “I Play the Kora”. The kora is a West African instrument similar to a harp that generally only men were allowed to play. In playing the kora, a woman is challenging pervasive gender roles and asserting that she is a man’s equal. The group asserts they are not anti-men and that it is not their intention to come off in such a manner. Instead, they want to stress the necessity of dismantling the patriarchy in order to combat violence against women and they want their work to help with the process.

The name Les Amazones d’Afrique is an homage to both the Dahomey Amazons who were female warriors in what is now Benin and to Les Amazones de Guinée, Guinea’s first all-female pop music group. Their music is sung in English, French, and Mandinka. The album also includes singers from the griot tradition. As storytellers who have inherited this role, griots have been responsible for preserving their culture’s oral narratives and histories and many  play the kora.

This album combines and showcases the phenomenal talents of each individual musician while centering around universal themes including love and equality. The supergroup is comprised of Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné.

They believe that “music can trigger change and be a weapon to address the systematic disempowerment of women across Africa.” Les Amazones d’Afrique was initially created out of a desire to raise money for the Panzi Foundation, an organization that has treated gynecological injuries in thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than half of whom had survived some form of sexual violence. After getting started, the musicians realized that they wanted to continue to use their art to “stop violence against women not only in the African continent but also in the rest of the world”.

Black women matter and Les Amazones are not letting anyone forget. Moving forward, Tarana Burke urges us to take back the narrative and recenter Black women and marginalized communities. And with their work to help victims of sexual violence, their work to challenge and get rid of the patriarchy, and their proclamation to “rise up and fight because we are all equal”, this is exactly the energy that Les Amazones d’Afrique embodies.

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