AWA Khiwe: making waves from zimbabwe to germany

AWA Khiwe is making an impact on the Zimbabwe rap scene. Ensuring that not only her culture is acknowledged for its beauty, but that it survives through the oppression that has stolen the stories of so many of our African brothers and sisters. Originally from Nkayi, Zimbabwe AWA Khiwe was raised to have pride in her village, people and identity. Once she relocated to Germany she set out on a mission to empower and share her voice as a Zimbabwean rapper on a global platform. Her December 2020 release of Ngeke Bengimele broke the internet with its raw reflection of the beauty of AWA’s history, struggle, and native tongue, Ndebele. Ngeke Bengimele translates to I Can’t Stand It, as AWA combats the oppression that has fostered shame within her community and members of the motherland and diaspora in general. AWA identifies as a member of the diaspora, permanently residing in Germany, but has never lost sight of the roots that created her.

The first few bars of the rap are in English, establishing the boss woman that AWA is. “Look, I’ve been around and l’m still here, I’ve been a thug but l’m still Queen.” With this line AWA reflects on her value as an African Queen while also having pride of the township from which she hails, that many would caste off as ghetto. The truly beautiful thing about this song, that can be seen in the first few lines, is that AWA has no shame of her history; she unapologetically shares her story with the world with her head held high. Throughout the remainder of the song AWA raps primarily in her native language of Ndebele reinforcing her pride and refusal to conform to colonial oppressors. One line that AWA repeats throughout the song is, “Lisebancane ngiyalikhuza vele ngeke bengimele” which roughly translates to: when she is young I scold her and I will not stand for her. AWA has no fear of addressing the hardships of her past for it has strengthened her to share her story, and speak out against those that reinforce the norms of cultural shame. This song is a beautiful marriage of AWA’s past and her future colliding to share a valuable message with the world. Anyone who struggles with embracing their identity should hear this song and look to AWA as a role model, channeling her power to lift up all those who face this struggle.

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