Mocked because of her passion for rap, ”Mina the Veiled” is fighting against the tide to embody the new face of women’s hip-hop in Senegal. Although she receives insults, she is often encouraged by several people who support her.
Aminata Gaye picks up a grey scarf and stretches it into a T shape. She ducks under the fabric, wraps it around her neck and crisscrosses it over the crown of her head. Her veil in position, the 27-year-old old is transformed into Mina la voilée (Mina the veiled one), her stage name as a rapper in Dakar, Senegal.
“When I sing, I am someone else,” she says. “I don’t feel anything anymore. I’m unwound. It’s like I’m another person when I’m on stage.”
When she first began rapping as a veiled Muslim woman, Mina endured a backlash on social media. Knowing that she was not alone was what helped her endure it.
Mina is a member of Genji Hip Hop, a collective of about 70 female Senegalese rappers, singers, DJs and graffiti artists. Starting life as a WhatsApp group in 2017, it has since blossomed into a civil society organisation that puts on concerts, holds workshops for women and speaks up about women’s issues in the west African country.
The women have fun and support each other as they address social taboos surrounding women’s rights. Their movement is both global and local: recently participants in the WhatsApp group discussed viral videos of women in Colombia fighting against rape, promoted Genji rappers’ music videos and shared inside jokes.
On stage, the performers rap and sing about relationships, society’s searing gaze on women, incest, family pressure and rape.