From Silence to Speech: African Women in New York Write about their Circumcisions

Natasha Gordon-Chipembere
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From September - November 2005, I conducted a weekly writing workshop with 8 committed West African women, mostly new immigrants to New York City, who wanted to write about their circumcisions. Their reasons for participating ranged from personal testimony to be shared with their daughters, needing a space to discuss a topic long considered taboo and as a political statement against the practice overall. The women who wrote mostly in Bamabara and French, with bits of English, described the details of their memories, drew pictures of their cuttings, spoke about their fears on returning home with their uncircumcised daughters, as well as the larger issues of assimilation, beauty perceptions, African husbands, motherhood and immigration. This paper seeks to combine the pedagodical approach I used throughout the various workshop sessions and their actual words, writings and images.

Keywords: African women writers, Female Circumcision, African women's bodies, Gender, African literature
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Sexuality, Gender, Families
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Natasha Gordon-Chipembere

PhD Candidate/Graduate Student, Department of English, University of South Africa
South Africa

Since doing Fulbright research in Kenya amongst the Maasai in 1991, Gordon-Chipembere has spent her time working with and advocating for African women who have been circumcised. She has published various articles, faciliated conferences, presented papers and chaired panels on the subject. Gordon-Chipembere is currently facilitating a writing workshop in New York with eight circumcised West African women, who are immigrants. She is editor at large for Sauti Yetu: Center for African Women in New York. She lives and teaches English Composition and Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

Ref: H06P0203