Having been an avid reader of Minna Salami’s award-winning blog, MsAfropolitan, I searched high and low for her contact details – as having her profile on The Corporate Canvas was an absolute necessity! With a Nigerian-Finnish background, Minna is the founder of a blog dedicated to pan-African philosophy, gender issues and pop culture. Passionate about gender studies, Minna has been listed as one of Applause Africa’s “40 African Change-makers under 40″, one of Nokia’s “50 Remarkable Women Connected by Nokia” and listed by Eelan Media as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Black People on Digital/Social Media”. Read all about the remarkable MsAfropolitan below, as she discusses the African woman and what she believes makes a modern-day pan-Africanist…
Full name: Minna Salami
Current title/ company: Founder, Ms Afropolitan [www.msafropolitan.com]
Educational background: BA Political Science, University of Lund, Sweden & MA Gender Studies, First Class Honours Distinction, University of London
Current City: London
Minna, you have managed to build a pristine reputation for yourself as the founder of multiple award-winning blog, MsAfropolitan – a platform covering contemporary Africa and Diaspora society and culture from a feminist perspective. Could you take us through the journey to where you are now? What drew you towards tackling topics such as feminism, gender relations and African affairs?
From a young age I saw that society favoured the male gender. I noticed it in my own family, in friends’ families, at school, in books, on TV, you name it. Simultaneously, I saw that there were differences between the two countries and continents that I am from – Finland and Nigeria; Africa and Europe – one was incredibly developed and its citizens were looked after, and in the other people suffered
disproportionally. Also, I was raised in a home environment where political and intellectual discussion was common. But the short answer to the question is that I was most likely born with a feminist spirit! Well, you know how babies are born with their own personalities…
Outside of running your blog, you are also a member of the Duke University Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network, a contributor to the Guardian Africa Network, a Huffington Post contributor and Speaker. What attribute would you say has greatly contributed towards your success?
If there is one thing that always seems to lie behind success, of whatever measure, it is passion. I do not mean passion loosely, as an interest or hobby; I am thinking of something deeper, the kind of thing that, actually, you would do even if you were not successful at it. My work is like that. It is like breathing to me. I cannot imagine being alive and not writing, and I cannot imagine writing and then not writing about issues that I see as socially and philosophically urgent.
You are well versed in the topic of African women’s rights and affairs. What would you say is African women’s biggest shortfall? And their greatest strength?
African women ourselves are our greatest strength. By this I mean that our potential is our strength. For instance, to be an African woman is to come from the continent with the most incredibly rich source of natural resources in the world. Of course, African men share that rich heritage, but it is noteworthy that unlike most parts of the world, in Africa, women are the gender with a deeper knowledge of working the land both historically and today. Furthermore, to be an African woman is to come from a continent with infinite stories to discover, or rediscover rather. For example, who will be the first African woman to sail the length of the Niger or the Nile Rivers. Or, to invent a psychosomatic health care system combining African therapy and western medicine. Look, these are just examples, but my point is that men, and particularly European men, have been “ exploring” the continent for long. Why don’t we climb to the top of Africa’s mountains (metaphorical and real) and name them after ourselves and our daughters? Conversely, our potential is also our shortfall because we do not realise it—in every sense of the word “realise”. We have been brainwashed to think ourselves small.
Regrettably, 2014 was not the greatest year for Africans. The continent faced an Ebola outbreak, continuous violations against women, religious extremist movements and anti-gay legislation. What would you say is the hope that Africans should hold onto in 2015? Amongst these incidents, are we moving towards a light at the end of the tunnel, or do we remain ‘The Dark Continent’?
I am an optimist so I’m prone to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But I’m also a realist and the reality is that there is reason to be pessimistic about many pressing situations in Africa today such as those you have pointed out. However, in that contradictory place of optimism about a pessimistic scenario, there is an opportunity for radical change. It’s a space in between the “Africa Rising” and the “Hopeless Continent” narrative. I call it Africa Reflecting.
Would you describe yourself as a Pan Africanist? What attributes does the modern day Pan Africanist possess?
Yes I would describe myself as a pan-Africanist. However, when it comes to “isms”, I do not tend to think of them in terms of attributes. Rather, I tend to think of isms—pan-Africanism, feminism, Afropolitanism, Marxism, neoliberalism, capitalism, you name it—above all as philosophical paradigms where important, if both progressive and regressive, conversations are held. What can be particularly useful about isms is that they enable conversations which are not limited to a certain period in time. Pan-Africanism is riddled with conversation between the past, the present and even the future. For instance, within the framework of pan-Africanism, one can today build on an idea conceived by, say, Kwame Nkrumah. However, were I to pick an attribute of modern day pan-Africanism, I would at least wish that it were a critical engagement with pan-Africanist ideas so as to reinvigorate the field.
Let’s talk about your blog! MsAfropolitan is a truly refreshing, brilliantly-curated platform! What plans do you have for MsAfropolitan’s future?
Thank you, I’m happy to read that you like it. My future plans for MsAfropolitan are to continue to blog, naturally, but I would also like to publish some of the content in other formats, as an e-book and print book.
Your career has transcended many forms of media. As a writer, blogger and thought leader, what major obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Yes, being a feminist writer and blogger is often a stark reminder of why there is a need for feminism. However, I overcome negative attitudes toward feminism by not focusing on them. It is important to me to stay focused on my work and not on any negativity around me. At any rate, for every negative reaction there is always a positive one and more.
What is a typical work day like for you?
Due to personal challenges, I’ve had to restructure my work pattern in the past year. So I do not have a typical or strict routine at the moment other than trying to work as much as possible.
Advice for female thought leaders and writers?
Try not to doubt yourself. It is something women writers often do, especially when it comes to discussing topics that are typically seen as masculine: politics, philosophy, tradition etc. Yet that said, be aware that the less you doubt yourself, the more misgiving others will become toward you. Develop a tough skin toward that. Our world is not made for women who are intellectually secure. Your role is to change that.
(Read Seven tips for African women bloggers by Minna)
Morning or night? Night
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
It would be my paternal grandmother who, unlike my maternal one, I never got round to discussing her childhood with. The Malian anthropologist, Amadou Hampâté Bâ, once said “In Africa, when an old man dies, a library disappears”. My grandmother and I would eat eba with okra stew and I would devour the “library”.
I wish I knew how to… Conduct an orchestra.
African women are… More than a solution to economic development.
Africa needs… To define modernity on its own terms.
Worst money mistake… Saving too little.
Best investment… Saving too little.
Motivation in 3 words… Never compromise yourself.
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