If Bi Kidude was God, I would be absolute in my belief – [from a poem by Shailja Patel]

“I will never fear aging again because now I have heard Bi Kidude”

It was yesterday I received Shailja’s monthly newsletter which included notice of her TED performance. I felt slightly apprehensive as all the criticisms of the TED events began filtering through my mind which I am not going into now because this is about Shailja, her words, her exquisitely powerful performance and even more so about a 95 year old Swahili woman from Zanzibar – Bi Kidude.

“I have never seen a woman ride a drum before, like a goddess rides a tiger, like creation rides a cosmos” .

Shailja’s words beat with the rhythm of the drum of Bi Kidude. We hear the sounds, we feel the strength of her belly, the muscles of her thighs as they hold the drum. A woman of 95 years old who carries the

“poetry buried in the bodies of women”

Shailja does not loose the politics of tourism, of whiteness of the body and sexuality – which surround the performance of Bi Kidude. The privilege of whiteness does not escape. The largely white TED audience and millions who watch the video are named through the white dreadlocked young man, the white guests at the Africa Hotel – the watchers with bare flesh whilst the ‘African’ waiters are hidden in the drudgery of their black and white uniforms, their bodies stifled from motion. It is not they who are to be seen but those imprisoned in their bodies and the tyranny of markets, consumption, bleaching, weaving, body altering technologies…..

those who check their bodies daily for criminal fat,
for outlawed abundance of flesh.
Women of the tragic sisterhood of liposuction, surgical alterations,
silent epidemic of anorexia deaths
woman taught that beauty is self-annihilation”

A poem for Bi Kidude