Zimbabwean using hip-hop to improve human rights in her country

You’ve probably never heard of rapper AWA.

She’s touring the UK for the first time and says she wants her music to help people in her home country, Zimbabwe.

“There is no-one in the hip-hop industry who’s going to tell these stories like me.

“People think that rapping is for boys, but I address issues that affect women in society, like domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, rape, prostitution,” says AWA.

“I feel that as a woman I should address that through my music.”

At 24, AWA has seen a lot.

Growing up in Makokoba, a poor suburb in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo, she says she experienced domestic violence first-hand.

Her name, an acronym for African Women Arise, reflects her aim to improve women’s rights in Zimbabwe, a country where two-thirds of females report having experienced some form of gender-based violence.

“It’s very difficult to be a female hip-hop artist in Zimbabwe,” she tells Newsbeat.

“Every time that I perform, some people think, ‘She’s not supposed to be doing that. She’s supposed to sing with a very sweet voice, or she’s supposed to do a dance or something.'”

And it hasn’t been easy to get her message heard.

Until this year, Bulawayo had no commercial radio station. AWA says many male music executives wouldn’t listen to her tracks.

“Because we [female artists] love hip-hop so much we create our own spaces. We go around, sometimes in front of the shops, we just talk to them, ‘Can we perform here?’ We organise our own shows.”

AWA’s style is assertive.

She raps quickly, in the Zimbabwean language Ndebele.

She dresses in bright clashing prints and decorates her skin with white dots of toothpaste.

She’s in the UK to perform as part of Voices of the Revolution, a collective of 15 female musicians from 10 countries including Egypt, Brazil and Venezuela.

Put together with just three days of rehearsal, their styles range from dancehall to folk.

The group played their first UK festival, Shambala, at the weekend.

“The UK crowd is so, so amazing,” says AWA.

“Hip-hop is not really that big in Zimbabwe, but people here appreciate you as an artist. I rap in Ndebele, so no-one hears what I’m saying here, but people still say, ‘Oh my God, you rock.'”

But her outspoken nature has got her into trouble at home.

A few weeks ago she was arrested for taking part in a protest against Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe.

“It was a peaceful protest,” she says. “We were just marching, and singing, and then the police came.”

The protest was part of #ThisFlag, an anti-government movement spreading across Zimbabwe via social media.

Its supporters say the government isn’t addressing problems like unemployment.

“Luckily I got out, I had friends who came to rescue me the very same day.

“As much as I’m scared, I’m not going to stop. The world is supposed to know about what’s happening in our country.”

About admin

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: