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International women's day : Myriam MAKEBA

During this presentation, we will be figuring out how Miriam MAKEBA smashed the glass ceiling and debunked the myth of female inferiority.

First, let me explain the terms of this key question. What is it to smash the glass ceiling ? Well, in our society until very recently, there was some kind of metaphorical glass ceiling above women’s heads, an invisible barrier that prevented them from reaching to self-fulfilment and climb up in society. (skip slide) Smashing the glass ceiling, for a woman, is destroying this barrier and making it up to the top despite social and cultural obstacles

Now, what is the myth of female inferiority? Well, it is a discriminating principle according to which women are inferior to men and cannot possibly reach the upper levels in society simply because they have too many things to carry, (show the picture on the board), as you can see here, she has a baby and a lot of bags, and a difficult  is to debunk the myth of female inferiority ? It’s to show that women can do as just as well as men, that women are equal to men and can fight just like them.

 We’ll now see how Miriam MAKEBA did smash the glass ceiling and debunk the myth of female inferiority.

Women have to follow a difficult path, here, she has to go up a scale, while men have nothing to carry (here, he’s got his hands in his pockets) and an easy path (he’s climbing up an escalator).

And to begin with, who was she ?

Miriam MAKEBA was a South African singer and activist. During her three decade career, she established herself as a powerful voice in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. She also fought against AIDS. She is known as « Mother/Mama Africa » and « The Empress of African Song »

Her career started in the 1950s, when she went on a three year tour with the Black Manhattan Brothers.

Then, she joined a girls band : The Skylarks. In 1956, she released her most famous song : Pata Pata, which was a real hit in South Africa. But, then she was exiled after she acted in the anti-apartheid documentary « Come back Africa » in 1959. After that, she went to the UK where she met Harry Belafonte and sang with him especially in the USA. They performed in front of personalities, like John F. Kennedy and his wife.

In 1980, she met Paul Simon and worked with him too. She traveled to lots of countries around the world in Africa, Europe and America. When she was finally allowed to come back to South Africa, in 1990, she continued her career there.

 So here you can see Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon.

But, we can’t talk about MAKEBA without talking about her songs, here is the official clip of Pata Pata.

Now, let’s talk about the fights she led.

 It all started in 1959 when she acted in the anti-apartheid documentary, which caused her to be exiled from South Africa. She became a ‘citizen of the world’, spent time  in Ghana, the UK or the USA where she testified against apartheid in1960. She also released songs against apartheid in her album ‘An evening with Belafonte/ Makeba’ and in 1963 delivered a speech against apartheid at the United Nations.

In 1988, she participated in the Free Nelson Mandela concert to support Nelson Mandela’ s liberation and when he was freed, she sang for the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute.

Now, as a conclusion we can say that Miriam MAKEBA indeed smashed the glass ceiling and debunked the myth of female inferiority :

  • First, from a musical point of view as she showed women could succeed in what they did by being a successful singer who performed in front of personalities or with other great singers. She established herself as a mythical singer. She succeeded despite her exile from her native country.
  • Secondly, from a political point of view as she fought against apartheid in her country as much as men like Nelson Mandela. She showed that women can fight like men and that they have a voice that can be heard as much as men’s.
  • Finally, from an iconic point of view as she became a mythical woman admired in the whole world.

So, in that respect, we can definitely say that Miriam MAKEBA smashed the glass ceiling and debunked the myth of female inferiority and showed that women can succeed, they can become famous, they, or should I rather say, WE can fight like men and sometimes harder. She’s a legendary woman we must take inspiration from.

She was and will forever remain the unforgettable Miriam MAKEBA.