Linguere was the title of Queens in the ancient Jollof empire. Being Wolof, I have always been fascinated by the matrilineal culture of my ethnic group, and how it differs from a range of other cultures in several aspects.
As I navigate what I call my Whole Woman Journeys, and get more rooted in the authenticity of my voice, the validity of my opinions, and the truth in my identity as a feminist, I have found great inspiration from the Linguere. Where African societies are generally patriarchal, treating women as second class, I see the Linguere as a representation of who we are meant to be as women in our world today.
The contexts may be different, and practices may have changed, but the plight of women hasn’t changed much generally. In a world that continues to stifle the voices of women, even when we speak of our own experiences and struggles, I seeks to unleash my voice, reflecting history in a modern context. Where we are raised to believe we come second, and should fit the molds and boxes, I seek to create my own path, open to many more girls and women reaching for a fate that’s different from the one society has designed for us, by default.
We may not wear crowns or be dressed in fancy gowns, but the Linguere is not what she wears. I was raised by generations of strong, determined and inspirational women, who refused to be limited to a fixed set of roles. I was taught to embrace my unique traits and be enough! I was raised to understand that all my feelings and opinions are valid, just as my right to make them known and heard. I was raised to depend, not on a man, but on the fruits of her my labour, first.
I grew up to be loved by loving; to be respected by respecting; to be understood by understanding; to be appreciated by appreciating and aims to be remembered by remembering. Yet, I refuse to let go of my individuality and conform. I lives in my truth and that is enough.
From my little corner in The Gambia, I use Linguere to speak to this truth and contribute to building a world where women and girls are free to reach their full potential and are never afraid to make their own choices and stick to them. I’ve been gifted with words, and the greatest way to use them is to speak through my journey, reclaim my narrative and tell my story as it is.
And as I do this, I hope to inspire generations of women and girls to do the same. No crowns, no fancy gowns, but a Linguere lives in each of us. Let’s honour her.