THEO SOWA :: A Know Your African Feminists interview


When it comes to talks about and by Africans, TED has the market cornered. TED talks delivered by young Africans are slick, smart meaningful and direct. The formula works.

The iconic The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her follow up, We should all be feminists, are of course required watching and listening.

But there is a whole world of Africans talking about a whole range of issues off the main stage – away from the red circle and the good lighting and the excellent visuals.

The quality and ingenuity of some of these talk formats are impressive. From longstorySHORT in South Africa – a incredible initiative run by my friend Kgauhelo Dube - in which African celebrities read from their favourite African books, to the series of African writers and poets run by the Library of Congress, featuring writers like Maaza Mengiste, Helon Habila and Igoni Barett - there are many, many talks and stories hardly anyone has watched.

But the talk I’m big upping here is part of the Know Your African Feminists Series. It’s like a 101 on feminism for the continent. It showcases African women applying themselves to #metoo issues long before there was a hashtag.

My favourite talk is by Theo Sowa (who is literally a legend on the continent and did an incredible TED talk in Berlin a few years ago).

Sowa explains how African women’s badassery can be traced back to Queen Nzinga but has also found expression in women in guerrilla movements.

She makes the powerful point that African feminists – steeped in African idiom, cultures and sensibilities – laugh the loudest and dance the hardest, even as they do the most.


Sisonke Msimang's If A Story Moves You, Act On It is part of our growing collection of TED talks by Africans with over a million views.

She regularly contributes to The Daily Maverick, The Guardian and The New York Times and recently published a memoir, Always Another Country, which Taiye Selasie picked for The Guardian's Best Books of 2017 feature.

She spent her childhood in exile in Zambia and Kenya, her young adulthood and college years in North America, and returned to South Africa in the euphoric 1990s. She currently lives in Perth, Australia, where she is programme director for the Centre for Stories.