This article seeks to contribute to an understanding of the gender dynamics in the artistic field in Africa, as a support to a diagnosis carried out by Selam’s program PANAF. The case study is Mozambique. We seek to explore the gender perspective and its impact on access to opportunities. We also explore the acceptance of art professional women in rural areas, looking at what is understood about gender, while identifying possible challenges to achieving gender equality in the artistic sector. In this article was 8 women who work in the arts participate as speakers and they represent the sectors of arts.
The methodology approach was open interview, with a guiding form. This model allowed participants a voluntary completion on: their knowledge and experiences on gender definitions; women’s access to opportunities; and challenges faced. in the sector; a literary review was carried out for a general contextualization.
Our theoretical foundation is supported by Gasperetto, Vera (2021) on Gender Studies and Mozambique, as well as Blanco, Eugenia Rodrigues and Domingos, Maira Hari as well as Tradition, Culture and Gender in Development programs, (2011), Benedict, Ruth. Cultural Patterns (1934).
The creative and artistic space in Mozambique is male dominated. However, there have been a few women who have had – and still have – remarkable and outstanding carriers. Names likes Paulina Chiziane, Reinata Saidimba, Lucrecia Paco and Manuela Soeiro are national and international references. In the past 10 years, a younger generation as also made itself present in the sector. It is with part of these women that we have discussed the status quo os the sector. We seek to understand how gender has influenced or not, their professional work.
Despite the dialogues around gender within the artistic sector being incipient, there is a great effort to increasingly involve female (ex: Feminist boom fire from Movfemme) as well as male artists in reflection circles on gender.
Some of the interviewees for this article understand gender as a set of characteristic elements that differentiate masculinity from femininity. These sexual characteristics, social roles and gender identity.
These social characteristics are often considered to foster gender inequality between women and men. However, these women created spaces for self-affirmation through their art, producing content that engages and empowers other women to establish their bodily, socio-political and economic autonomy.
Vera Gasparetto, (2019) in her doctorate apud MAMA, (2002), which states “We need to work towards a more active engagement […] between theory/research and policy/practice. In our resource-poor contexts, this requires particular forms of networking and community building. […] to promote a deeper involvement between the construction of knowledge and social transformation. Let us work together to unleash the critical and creative capacities of as many women as possible […] to advance the development of this continent, using what Amílcar Cabral famously called “the weapon of theory” to bring about our liberation.”
Further on, Gasparetto refers to the need to reflect on the importance of women competing for academic power and the intellectual tools that lead to obtaining gender justice, such as knowledge and information, research, the ability to communication and writing.
This thought calls us to see gender as this process of social, political, economic and cultural relationships where women and men enjoy equal spaces, without discrimination. It is a space where there is equal access to opportunities. BLANCO and DOMINGOS, (2011) refer gender is what identifies the socially constructed characteristics that define and relate men and women within specific contexts, and that it is also a category of social analysis that allows the reconstruction of unequal relationships between men and women based on essentialist conceptions.
These essentialist conceptions have been actual throughout history (of)the history in Mozambique , shows that women’s have their life focus in domestic context to marriage and take care they future husband, and this instructions and education received in their family, and this approaches it´s reflect until now in some womens, and create barraries for women engagement and empowerment, in all social, cultural, political and economic spaces, because the hostility in many cases has reflected in their choices, and in what the society can accept or no in women choices.
Currently women produce their works constituting the struggle to deconstruct discrimination around the body, social and cultural norms that have been routed through artistic and cultural practices, e.g. Dadinha- Joaquim Macuacua- oppressive music, any many womens dacing and dedicate this song for other womens, but today it´s possible find arts works to denounce most of oppressive approaches e.g poem, Apetece-me Dar from Enia Lipanga, where her show the women freedom to live her sexuality without discriminations.
One of the interviewees reflects that in the arts, women are often seen as promiscuous, less intelligent or less capable. For example, dancers and singers often have to hypersexualize themselves to further their careers. In other artistic disciplines, women are placed as a homogenous category.
Opportunities and resources
Access to opportunities is a process that lacks clarity. Since there are not know public mechanisms of access to resources, such as funding – there is not a script on how to acesss these opportunities. Where and how do creatives find funds, for example?
Since artistic groups are divided and the search for resources encourages rivalry, in other words, the different artistic forms do not communicate with each other, and this can lead to misunderstandings and rivalry, this is because there is unequal investment in the arts, for example the music industry is one of those that has the greatest investment, mainly in the private sector, and followed by literature, but Even so, this does not place women singers in more privileged spaces than men singers, creating challenges to connect each other for transversal themes like gender around the artists women.
Otherwise according to the interviewees, access to resources and opportunities is not always equal between men and women, reflecting inequalities that persist in many societies. “Although there has been significant progress in promoting gender equality, barriers persist that particularly affect women, from discrimination in the workplace, lack of representation in leadership positions, gender stereotypes that influence career choices and challenges associated with reconciling work and family responsibilities.” They mention the importance of building space to break this oppressive systems using arts approaches.
Furthermore, access to resources is centered on the definition of roles for men and women, with women being more involved as artists (those who perform) and with little insertion in decision-making spaces (producers, directors, operational technicians, curators, etc…), this analysis can support Ruth Benedict statement in Cultural Patterns (1934) “she proposes that cultures grant greater privilege to certain personalities and reject others, forming certain cultural patterns”.
This privilege would be the centralization of resources on men, which results from the social construction that where male figure is the center of attention within family, political, economic and cultural spheres. Additionally, is artistic residencies that rarely select women for participation, which interferes with the level of knowledge and mastery of political, economic and artistic management instruments.
“There is a tendency to antagonize women’s involvement in the artistic world and a refusal to recognize the talent and capabilities that a woman has. Artistic activities, such as: camera operator, directing and directing films or television, theater director and several others, are often only valued when they are carried out by men. We still see a society that discredits the capabilities and intellectuality of women in the artistic world.” Natercia Chicane said.
Harassment emerges as a significant barrier impeding women’s progress in the artistic field. The instrumentalization of women’s bodies and the prevalence of hostility create a challenging environment. While academia has made strides in training, the lack of representation in management and production roles leaves women vulnerable, particularly on stages and screens. The absence of a comprehensive gender policy further exacerbates these challenges, limiting women’s inclusion in decision-making spaces and access to resources.
There is also notable challenge is the underrepresentation of women in decision-making spaces. This lack of representation hampers the ways in which women access resources and opportunities, perpetuating a cycle of inequality. Young women artists, in particular, face heightened exposure to sexual exploitation and harassment within artistic production spaces.
Addressing the gender disparity requires substantial investment in training programs focused on management and artistic production. This training should specifically target women artists, aiming to equip them with the skills needed to engage in decision-making spaces within cultural institutions and the broader creative industry.
The development and implementation of gender policies are also crucial steps toward fostering inclusivity. These policies should not only address issues of harassment but also promote the active participation of women in decision-making roles. Organizations such as the National Institute of Creative Cultural Industries and the Ministry of Culture can play a pivotal role in spearheading these initiatives.
Opportunities such as artistic residencies should be reimagined to be more inclusive. Recognition of the importance of women’s participation is paramount. Initiatives should be established to ensure that selection processes consider gender diversity, providing women artists with equal opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills.
There is no doubt that the gender dynamics within the cultural and creative industry demand sustained efforts therefore, the recommendations outlined serve as a roadmap for ushering in positive changes and fostering a thriving environment for women in the arts.
This article was written by Mangia Macuacua and commissioned by PANAF as part of the women-led series, with the goal of identifying and addressing structural barriers faced by women artists.