Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lessons from Africa, Part 2

This is Bi Kidude as she bowed to a standing ovation on the TEDGlobal stage. She is a 96 year-old Taraab singer from the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. Bi Kidude could challenge just about anyone’s stereotypes. She is a Muslim woman who smokes, sings, dances, flirts and plays drums. Seeing her perform reminded me that everything in the Muslim world is not as Al Qaeda or the Taliban have defined. There are traditions that survive that are a testament to the richness of the full Islamic culture and the strength of character of women like Bi Kidude. She is considered a national treasure in Tanzania and continues to perform Unyago music and ceremonies that help prepare teenage girls for marriage. Unyago songs speak frankly about the joys of marriage, sex and men but also warn girls about abuse and oppression. Having survived and left two failed marriages and being as strong and independent as she is, one can only imagine what advice Bi Kidude offers.

I wonder what would happen if the Taliban crossed paths with Bi Kidude. I also wonder where belly dancing fits into the restrictive rules of Islamic fundamentalists. Most of all, I am glad there are women like her to remind me to keep an open mind and not believe everything I see and hear on TV about Islam.

No comments: