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PIMA BULLETIN NO 49

Part three: A pluriverse of activities

Animating ecofeminism for just futures

Maggie Mapondera

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In late 2020, WoMin African Alliance https://womin.africa embarked on a thrilling, creative journey to craft three animated films that would tell the stories of rural, peasant and working-class women and their communities across the African continent. Importantly, we use animation with no voice over narration in our popular education programmes,  because we are a pan-African network working in multilingual contexts.

 

The goal, from the start, was to use images and visual storytelling to give as nuanced a picture as possible of the struggles and powerful resistance of African communities from the start of colonisation to the present-day global neoliberal capitalist order. Not a small undertaking by any means! Even more of a challenge was to minimise using anything that may alienate viewers, for example, use of specific languages when many of the women mostly speak indigenous languages. Some, not all, also speak colonial languages – English, French or Portuguese. Thus, early in the production, we made a political choice to eschew voice over narration or the extensive use of language/text outside of generally recognisable symbols or words where it was necessary. 

 

The films are popular education tools, designed to create opportunities for a broad range of audiences to think through and discuss important political issues such as colonialism and neo-colonialism, the impacts of extractives-driven development on communities, and women, the different forms of violence that communities face due to this development model from displacement, conflict, and repression, for raising their voices and resisting. We envisioned that the films could be used in social movement spaces, community activist trainings and workshops, schools, and because of their brevity, they are ideal to be shared via social media and message apps.

 

Each film builds on the preceding one. The first one, Polluters & Plunderers: The Roots of Africa’s Crises, tells the story of women and their communities’ resistances to an economic system which steals their livelihoods, exploits their labour, destroys the ecosystems upon which Life depends, and is ultimately linked to planetary crises. In this resistance and defence of people and nature, women and communities are also putting forward different visions of Africa, so that we all can claim the Right to Say YES to life and a better world for us all.
 

This was followed by 2021’s The Right to Say NO: Women Defend Africa’s Wealth, which shows some ways in which rural, peasant and working-class women and communities across Africa resist the theft of our wealth – land, forests, water bodies and species – and assert our Right to Say NO.  

 

The full series, entitled Pathways to a Just Future for Africa, was completed in June 2023 with the last film, African Sovereignty: Women live the alternatives. This third film expands on the alternatives which women and their communities are protecting and proposing in their organising and resistances. This is in opposition to a destructive development model. Women’s proposition for just development lies in their resistance to the violent encroachments of mining, oil and gas extraction and large-scale infrastructure, including mega-energy projects to defend their seeds, their autonomy, their forms of production, their community relations, and very importantly, their interdependent relationships with Nature without which they would not survive. It shows how women are saying NO to the deeply destructive extractivist model of development, and YES to the real and living alternatives in the ways they produce food, conserve, and steward natural resources, and take care of their families and communities.

 

Viewed more than 9000 times so far on YouTube alone and distributed in low resolution via WhatsApp and other social media – the films represent a critical tool in creative ecofeminist praxis. The narratives of each film draw on WoMin’s ten years of work in making more visible the impacts of destructive extractivist-driven development on African communities, particularly women, and creating space to build and craft pathways to just development futures for Africa and the planet, driven by voices from below. In this way they serve as a testimony as well as teaching tools to inspire, provoke and generate conversations and ideas.

 

About the Author

 

Maggie Mapondera is a feminist activist and communicator who has supported feminist movements across southern Africa for ten years by facilitating creative ways to document human experience and struggles for justice. She works for WoMin African Alliance, a Pan-African ecofeminist organisation. margaret.mapondera@womin.org.za 

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