A recent ad for Stanbilo Boss highlighters earned great praise for its highlight on the roles of important women who have been overlooked throughout history. The women in the ad included the likes of Katherine Johnson, Lise Meitner and Edith Wilson. These were women who had a great hand in some of the milestones in human history but were never included in the narrative.
You see, narratives are powerful things. The narratives we tell ourselves in a way define who we are and how we see ourselves. The narratives we are told define what we know and how we perceive the world. The narratives that are written, stored and taught define how things will be remembered. Our history, written mostly through the eyes of men, has been generous in its praise of men but unkind to its women. Their contributions erased and diminished.
The good news is that something is being done. The ad by Stanbilo Boss is an example of ways the narrative is being changed. Closer home, the Too Early For Birds crew put on a great opening night show highlighting Kenyan women in history with an aim to uninvisible and unmask them.
I had been looking forward to the show for close to a month now and I had good reason to. One, the previous TEFB show was bad ass. Badassery. The cast narrated the stories of some of Kenya’s most famous gangstas and police men and women.
Two, the new show had an all women cast that included the likes of Sitawa Namwalie, Aleya Kassam, Anne Moraa and Laura Ekumbo. Just to name a few. The audience was promised a show about the unapologetic existence; space taking, opportunity seizing, ceiling shattering, mind blowing women. The likes of Chelagat Mutai, Zarina Patel, Field Marshall Muthoni and Mekatilili. Brazen women.
Once we were seated, Gathoni got onto the stage to welcome the audience and give us a few house rules. (I’ll wait for their next production to conclude if there’s a trend here with the dresses.)
Lights out and the show was on.
The setting around six women at shosho’s (or cucu’s, if you prefer). A mix of old and young. Women in different phases of life. A virgin. A sex worker. A pregnant lady. Shiru (who hates being called Pointi).
I remember reading the Bible but never had I heard a verse in Songs of Solomon narrated so beautifully.
We flawlessly moved through the past and present. The cast moving us with their oration.
We awed at the stories of courageous women, walking through forests and standing up to forces of oppression like the colonizers and governments that followed.
The standing ovation at the end was deserved. Over the course of the night we laughed, we learned, we were in awe at the cast and we definitely loved the singing and dancing. A lot of Bey music made the playlist. Who run the world? Right?
There are lots of stories out there. Stories long forgotten. Men and women erased from the annals of history. We might never be able to recognize all of them but we have the power to change the narrative and write history in fairer eyes.
One story at a time.