The Mahoyo Project on Tackling White Supremacy & Taking Up Space||#POPLITICAL
Mahoyo is an art, fashion and dj duo that consists of Farah Yusuf and MyNa Do based in Stockholm, Sweden. They love to travel, finding inspiration and illuminating subcultures, especially within the urban music, fashion and art scenes around the world. Throughout their work they use their creativity as a weapon to challenge norms and stereotypes. The duo extended into a sisterhood of 4 when they touched down in South Africa, teaming up with Phola “LoveSlavePhola” Gumede & Lethabo “Boogy” Maboi.
Mahoyo means mother-mother…in direct translation, “ma” is mother in Chinese and “hoyo” is mother in Somali. The name could not be more suited for this collective of proud feminists and world-revered creatives.
What is the significance of this name to you guys personally?
Farah: The name came to us randomly from throwing names around but we always knew that we wanted a name that was indigenous to us. Something that we could identify with our roots, When we finally got to Mahoyo we thought it sounds too cool, it sounds Japanese. More importantly Mahoyo is a tribute to our mothers, we just want to make them proud of who we’ve become.
MyNa: Mahoyo is a place where we can go to just “be”, collectively that is where we find our sense of freedom.
Phola: It represents a space where we get to push, at the forefront, a pro-women system rather than being subjugated to a patriarch society.
MyNa was born and bred in Sweden, Farah was born in Somali and landed in Sweden aged 6 as a refugee. Myna is of Chinese decent and Farah adds that African element we can only associate with great things. Things like the fact that being Black is a gift or that black people naturally have soul.
Noting that you guys are not natives to your home country, would you say your travels were initially fuelled by a hunger to find a sense of belonging?
MyNa: Yes definitely. The first travel we did together was with my family we went to Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand. And that is where we realised that there is so much more of the world than what we are exposed to. We felt very connected to the people.
Farah: I don’t look or speak like any of the people there but somehow we just clicked and that was where my love for travel started. I lived in Sweden practically my whole life but I’d still feel like an outsider, I fell in love with traveling because I found pieces of myself in other countries where I was appreciated and received without reservations. Traveling plays a huge part of us sourcing all the energy we need to do all that we love doing as creatives in the modern world
The world is just packed with varying perceptions and interpretations of the term feminism and what it is to be a feminist. We got an opportunity to know clearly what the term means to the collective as a whole.
What does it mean really to be feminist?
Phola: Its just being pro-women and not necessarily being anti-men or anything like that. It is really just us trying to take space. It’s a very powerful thing, I feel, to try and push those patriarchal boundaries in our societies.
It appears that we are somewhat oblivious as South Africans, or even as Africans in general, to how large our artistic footprint is to the international art scene.
Phola, you mentioned in the Mahoyo Project documentary how South African artists do not know how lucky they are and that you will make sure that they know it, may you elaborate on that?
Phola: South African artists do not know how revered their music is to the rest of the world, I mean I met a guy in Sweden who was just flipping out on Kwaito music, he couldn’t stop talking about it and it was so surreal to me. I imagine how awesome it would be if our legendary Kwaito artists could go to Europe and just tour because they have quite a following.
Farah: Swedish Dj’s play Kwaito and people there just go crazy over the sound. Even when in Paris, Myna and I heard a lot of sets that included Kwaito and some Angolan music, so yeah, the world is really in awe to some of the sounds that come out the Africa continent.
Looking back at the Q&A session at the South African Premiere screening of The Mahoyo Project documentary it is evident that a stern sisterhood has brewed within this collective.
What sisterly clashes have you had to deal with since you met up with Phola and Lethabo?
Farah: Oh no, that is a hard one to answer because I do not remember a single incident where our personalities resulted in any friction. The only thing that was a little off was just the language barrier here and there.
MyNa: Men never get those kind of questions, I think there is a misconception that we women will always have our personalities clash.
Phola: I think we met and immediately realised that we are all pieces of the same puzzle that come together perfectly.
In most instances, the perception of art and the pursuit of it is usually clouded negatively by lack of funding or its profitability to the artist. This is the case for a lot of artists in the world who are yet to meet that ever-illusive “big break”.
What advice can you give to artists in general on how to continue doing their art and still be able to eat at the end of the day?
Farah: For us it was never about the money, honestly. We’ve always had a side hustle that we do, we then save up from that towards funding our goals. I would definitely not advice anyone into thinking that they can make money out of art. You just need to be focused on what it is you want to do. We make tiny goals to chase a big vision.
MyNa: If you want to change something and do something important in the world you should not rely on money. And that is what we honestly believe.
The Mahoyo Project is very pro-women and their timing for the screening was just in line the second day’s of South Africa’s 16 Days of Activism against Women and Children abuse.
Your documentary was screened on the second day of South Africa’s 16 Days of Activism initiative, were you guys aware of this and are you planning to engage this initiative before you head back to Sweden?
MyNa: I did not know anything about this 16 Days of Activism until this very moment but it sounds like an initiative we would want to be a part of. Sweden should actually have such an initiative.
Farah: Well I’m just so amazed that South Africa actually has something like that. We do not have anything of sort in Sweden. We should definitely post something about it. We fully support it and we look forward to letting people know about it.
Make tiny goals to chase a big vision
What is Mahoyo’s big vision?
Farah: I think our biggest thing is to just F*^k$ with white supremacy. And take up spaces that we aren’t currently allowed to occupy. We want to put our stories in the forefront and just take control of the narrative of our lives.
MyNa: Basically the goal is to F*^k$ with all the norms that come with white supremacy. We use all our creative outlets to using culture as a weapon to breakdown society’s current power structures.
This was definitely a life enriching experience for all the parties who where involvement but now what do these parties walk away with is an interesting thought to poke.
Phola, is there anything tangible that has materialised from this experience that we should be on the look out for?
Phola: Its added so much value to my life, it has definitely broadened my horizon. I know now that anything is possible and I am capable of doing things that I never thought I could do. But now I’m not sure what that one thing is, that one tangible thing is yet. There is definitely something on the horizon.
Watch the trailer…