Veiled performer breaks taboos in Senegal - she raps about controversial societal issues that affect women

Senegalese rapper, Mina La Voilée
Senegalese rapper, Mina La Voilée

"What men do, women can do too and I sing that in my song again.

Girl power never stops, we have been always strong."

As a woman who chooses to wear a veil, Mina explains how criticism from industry professionals who told her "the veil and hip hop don't flow together" drove her to succeed, and inspired her to tackle other controversial societal issues in her lyrics such as child marriage, rape and infanticide.

READ MORE: Nadia Nakai and other women who have been shamed for their outfits 

She performs both as a solo artist and as part of an all-female rap movement, Genji Hip Hop, who use their music to fight cultural stereotypes and gender violence.

Here is what she says about her music:

"When I sing I'm like, it's like I'm a different person... more confident, it's like the world is mine (sic)," says Mina.

"In our society when you are a woman, they are always telling [you] what you must do, how you must behave. You must not laugh, you must just smile. You must, you must, you must - and you must. However, to be a rapper you need to find confidence. You learn that and so you make it happen.

"When I started it was really something new, because I wear a veil. My three singles tell a story of this; wearing a veil, why people do not accept me. I wanted a producer and all that but no one could understand or accept me as I am, they kept asking me to take off my headscarf because it's not 'compatible' with music. They said the veil and music don't flow together.

"This is how I first started talking about issues like being veiled and still having a place here. I speak a lot about taboo subjects like cases of rape, incest, infanticide, it's these topics that deeply interest me. Rap informs, rap educates, it truly engages people and can be a serious catalyst for change. It can change everything.

READ MORE: Cardi B calls for female rapper support after criticism of women in hip hop 

"I just recently got married. Here it's hard to be a married woman and continue being a rapper. A woman that comes home at 3am or 4am in the morning, maybe wakes up at 1pm, that is really looked down upon. Often it causes problems, if not with the husband then with his family or your own.

"I usually spend two or three days at my husband's house then I go back to mine. My husband is a rapper like me so he understands my career, he gets what I'm doing, and his parents too because they understand I'm a rapper. For us it has worked out well.

"'Muñ', I'm not sure if I can translate it literally but I can try my best. It's when someone does something to you, when someone hurts you and you say nothing. When you support your husband no matter what, it's that. When one is violent toward you, when you're not happy and you say nothing. You must not ... the woman must keep everything in and be quiet. That's how you will have good children, how you will have children who succeed in life. So it's a bit like that. 

READ MORE: When Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said 'ukubekezela' is a no-no for her, we all stood up and listened

"'Muñ' is one of the things you can't escape here, it always comes back. Rap talks about all of that, you can't stop it, there's no 'Muñ' in rap. Anything goes in rap, it covers everything. I'm just a person who has chosen to wear a veil and become a rapper, and truly, it's my choice.  

"I dream that my rap will make a change, will raise awareness but above all else that people will understand things better. I'm just a woman who has these rights, to be veiled and be a rapper but I'm not different from any other woman. I eat, they it, I speak, they speak ... I'm free to do what they are free to do.

"With my music I try to raise awareness, about all the types of violence women face.

"When I rap, even if I'm angry beforehand ... when I'm on stage, I just feel so good. The truth is I don't want to come down once I'm up there, I'm just so happy. That's all, I just adore it." 

Compiled by Phelokazi Mbude

Follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
22% - 679 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 282 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
50% - 1555 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 40 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 558 votes