African Feminism: Goddesses Who Defied The Odds

We have often heard people tell us that feminism can never work in Africa because it is a western concept that was brought to us to destroy our culture and traditions. These people must have forgotten that Africa had/has goddesses.

A lot of historical African women have had their achievements swept under the rug by patriarchal people with the intention to manipulate the impact women had in our history. 

One of the most popular examples of women affected by such historical manipulations is Chief Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti, for goodness sake, we were taught in school that she was simply the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria, out of her various achievements, we were only taught that.

But, that is a story for another. Today, I’m going way back, back to the time of gods and goddesses. I’ll be discussing three African goddesses and their contribution towards women’s empowerment. So, if you are a lover of African Mythology, buckle up because you are in for a wonderful ride.

The first goddess I’ll be discussing is Oshun. Oshun is the Yoruba goddess of love and beauty, of sexuality and pleasure. She’s also a goddess of fertility and is said to govern the female genitalia.

Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove.
It is a sacred forest located along the banks of the osun river.
Photo credit: google

Oshun or Osun (depending on how you want to spell it) is the goddess of the Osun river and she was married to Sango, the god of thunder and some stories even say that she was also married to Orunmila, the god of wisdom. 

In Yoruba mythology, she is believed to be one of the central figures in the creation of human beings, she was one of the seventeen dieties that was sent by Eledumare to populate the earth and she was the only female deity amongst them. She’s mostly represented on earth by peacock feathers.

In the myth, there was a time Eledumare gave the Orisas some work to do but the gods decided to do it all by themselves ignoring any contribution from the goddesses. Oshun was not satisfied with this, so, she gathered the other goddesses together to form a cult, called  Iyami Aje to protest against the behaviour of the gods.

Fumilayo Ransom-Kuti and members of the Abeokuta Ladies Club.
ALC was founded in 1932 but was renamed Abeokuta Women’s Union in 1946
Photo credit: thekraal.co

This is similar to Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti’s  creation of the Abeokuta Women’s Union in the 1940s to fight for women’s rights, to demand for improved representation of women in local government councils and to put an end to unfair taxes meted out on market women.

Osun is a goddess who expresses her sexuality freely and encourages other women to do the same. Think about it, she was married to two gods at the same time. She also did not sit by and watch her rights be trampled upon by the gods. She wanted a seat at the table and she worked for it and rallied all the goddesses to do the same, much like what modern feminists are doing today.

The next goddess is Ala an Igbo goddess. She’s the mother goddess of the earth, she rules the underworld and is also the goddess of fertility, morality, mortality and creativity.

She is the highest Alusi in the Igbo culture. She gives children and watches over them until they die and when they do, she collects their souls and keeps them in her pocket. She teaches people how to live a good and moral life and is worshipped in a shrine called Mbari.

Mbari is not built on a whim,  Ala usually sends a sign to her priest to tell them where to build it. Ala’s messenger on earth is said to be the Python.

To know a little more about the goddess Ala, I recommend that you read Akwaeke Amezi’s novel ‘Freshwater’. 

Whenever anyone tells you that as a woman you should never take the lead and that women cannot be in positions of power, remind them that Ala is the highest Alusi (deity) in the Igbo culture,  so please don’t let anyone dim your light.

The final goddess I’ll be discussing in this article is the Egyptian goddess, Isis.

Isis is the goddess of life and magic, her name literally means Queen of the Throne. Isis is the protector of women and children and she was one of the greatest goddesses of ancient Egypt. 

In ancient Egypt, under the watchful eye of Isis women were entitled to work, to own property,  to go to court and to bear witnesses. They also had the right to choose their partners freely, to marry out of love and to spell out detailed prenuptial agreements to protect them and their children. 

Isis is the only goddess worshipped throughout Egypt.
Photo credit: Egyptianwitchcraft.com

Isis was the only goddess who was worshipped by all Egyptians alike and her influence was so widespread that she was also worshipped beyond Egypt. She was a goddess who protected women and children’s rights diligently and vigorously.

These are just three goddesses out of the hundreds of goddesses we have in Africa and this article doesn’t even cover the might and influences these goddesses had in the history of Africa.

It is quite important to note, that feminism is deeply attached to our roots as African women. This is why it is extremely pertinent for us to know our history, to learn about our culture and to read more books written by African women.

In my next post, I intend to discuss the culture/habits of downplaying our feelings and emotions to suit the men in our lives. And if I can make out the time, I’ll also make a compilation of must-read books written by African women. 

Thank you for reading today’s post I look forward to reading your thoughts about this topic in the comment section. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Image of Ala was gotten from 37thstateonline.com

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