black and brown artists remind us that witchcraft isn’t white

November 23, 2016
555 Picks

Timeline recently published this video about witches who served as feminist icons in popular culture, highlighting characters such as the Wicked Witch of the West, Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It explained how witches have made a resurgence in popular culture because of the growth of feminist ideals. Witches have usually been depicted as highly intelligent, independent and powerful with an identity not connected to a man — which, of course, made them very dangerous. While the video made some very good points about one of the oldest female archetypes, there was a glaring misrepresentation: All of the characters the video discussed were white.

By Heather Jones / WearYourVoice*, AFROPUNK contributor

The complicated and violent history of witches around the world is intersectional at its core. Women of color in particular have been “othered” by both patriarchal and racist caste systems that have narrowed the world’s view about what we are capable of or allowed to be. Particularly as colonized individuals, it was dangerous for non-white women to connect with the spirit world outside of church, because this action was seen as blatant disregard for the colonizer’s imposed ideals. However, no matter how hard systems like patriarchy and white supremacy try to kill them, brujas just won’t die and brujas of all colors continue to thrive, manifest, create and multiply.

Artists like Azizaa and collectives like Bruja Lyfe are changing the conversation around the existence of witches across the African and Latino diaspora. Azizaa is a Ghanaian-born female rapper whose song “Black Magic Woman” is challenging Christianity’s grip on Ghana, considered one of the most religious countries in the world. Azizaa challenges religion’s dominance by stating: “How can anyone of African descent be worshiping the same tool used to uselessly murder their ancestors?” Meanwhile, Bruja Lyfe is a collective comprised of two teaching artists: Maddy “MADlines” Clifford and Vreni “Chhoti Maa” Michelini-Castillo, and is shifting the narrative in Oakland, California. Bruja Lyfe hosts hip-hop events, workshops and creative spaces while focusing on healing through manifestation and building community. If you are in the Bay Area on November 19, check out The Brujas You Couldn’t Kill, a party and hip hop showcase from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Alena Studios in West Oakland. Like their page on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram for more info.

*This post is in partnership with WearYourVoiceMag.