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Editorial: African Women and the Fire Dance

Nkiru Nzegwu


It is important to begin this editorial with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's widely popular tribute to the African woman, given the belief in many quarters that it depicts the true set of attributes of women in Africa. To Fela's credit, the song, Lady, like his early more experimental set of Afrobeat tunes, has a vital, catchy tempo and a convincing social message. It deploys imageries that are so compelling and intuitively true about what many believe to be the masculinist patriarchal continent of Africa. The song plays at multiple levels: it glorifies a certain image of African woman; it denigrates the image of a woman in charge; it instructs us on how a real African woman occupies space and carries herself; it prescribes what the proper relationship is between spouses; and it ridicules any traits that are perceived to be foreign and alien. Like Okot p'Bitek's Lawino, Fela simultaneously presents a glowing picture of an "African woman" as wife, submissive and subordinate, and caricatures "lady," as anemic, untraditional, and a spiritless dancer. As the lyrics make clear:

African woman go dance
e go dance the fire dance
African woman go dance
e go dance the fire dance
e know im lord and master
e go cook for am
e go do anyting he say

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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