BY KENYA MANSARAY
Have you ever encountered someone that was very talented, yet courageous?
Well I had the pleasure of speaking with 25 year old Sierra Leonean or “Salone” native Fanta Kamara, who goes by the stage name Fantacee Wiz. She is a very popular activist, singer, dancer, actor, director, and designer of African fashion.
Fantacee Wiz was a nickname given to her as small girl by her late father. She’s been in the entertainment industry most of her life, and was part of a performing arts group “Freetong Players”, which became a household name. She finally started her solo career after college in 2013.
Fantacee Wiz has written, directed, and starred in a movie entitled “Sarah: The Hope of The Family” a film that touches on issues of teenage pregnancy, and education for girls. She recently launched the “Say No to Rape” Movement to combat violence against women and girls.
Tell us about your music, what type of genre of music do you make?
Fantacee Wiz: I’m a Traditional Folk Singer. My music is all about preserving what we have left of our traditional folk music, and culture.
Sierra Leone is a country with a rich culture, how do you think the music here can be more wide spread for others around the world to hear?
Fantacee Wiz: We as artists need to start appreciating the uniqueness of what we have as a country, then others will appreciate it too.
When those with the resources start seeing music as worthy of investment in Salone, and start investing in it, that will take it to the international market to reach a wider audience. Music is money, and money is music, the two entwine; with the right people and resources we’ll hit the outer world.
Your style is very unique and sets you apart from many artists, especially your hair. I watched an interview with you speaking on going natural. How long have you been growing your locs, what made you go natural?
Fantacee Wiz: I’ve been growing my locs for 11 years now. I don’t like weaves or any form of attachments in my hair. I have unique hair which is beautiful, so why use others’ or synthetic hair. I don’t need that to feel beautiful, I’m already beautiful the way I am and there’s no need to cover it up.
Ghana is set to ban all bleaching creams in August 2016. Bleaching is wide spread in many African and Caribbean countries, what do you think of “creaming”, and why do men, and specifically women alter their skin?
Fantacee Wiz: I think that’s a great move by Ghana! I feel it’s very bad and only those with very low self-esteem would put toxic products on their skin to feel beautiful, or to fit into media standards of beauty. I’m light skin, and the hair on my skin is blonde, so I often have people asking what kind of cream do I use. But fact is I don’t use anything on my skin, no lotion or cream for that matter because I don’t want to put anything to my skin that I’m not sure of.
Many people have a negative view of Sierra Leone because of the civil war, and most recently the Ebola outbreak, how do these views impact the people here?
Fantacee Wiz: It does have a negative impact on people more than they’re letting on or maybe they don’t even realize the negative effects. We now have a lot of violence, people stabbing one another, and if you check, these are the people that were kids during the war (well we all were). We as kids saw a lot of violence during the war and now violence means nothing to some.
Ebola is another story which our economy is yet to recover from. Those that became jobless during the Ebola epidemic are yet to get jobs.
What ways can Sierra Leone overcome the stigma left from the war and Ebola?
Fantacee Wiz: I think Sierra Leone should have Post Traumatic Centers which we don’t have, to provide free counseling, and help find employment for the youth (because an idle mind is the devils workshop). The rate at which youth are unemployed here is unthinkable, and makes them turn to crime and drugs.
Our economy needs to be restored and provide job opportunities for those that lost their jobs due to the Ebola Outbreak.
How did the Ebola virus and lock down affect the music scene here, and you as an artist?
Fantacee Wiz: During Ebola lockdown, everything was at a standstill for entertainment and me as an artist was no exception. No shows, nothing was happening.
You recorded a song entitled “African Woman” what inspired the song?
Fantacee Wiz: All I see these days on TV, Social media etc. is African women not proud of who they are. They’re trying so hard to fit into “the media said” type of beauty. For crying out loud we have the most beautiful women on the planet. All we need to do is embrace who we are and be proud, so I did this song to remind African Women out there who are at the verge of losing themselves to look back for a second and realize the Queens they are.
How long have you been an activist, and what inspired you to speak out against the struggles of women and children in Sierra Leone?
Fantacee Wiz: I have been an activist for about 5 years now, and the impact is so huge that it feels like I’ve been doing it for ages. I grew up where women were not allowed to speak their minds or say anything even if it was killing them. For me I think that’s wrong and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s one of the things that inspired me. I loved debating at school, home, the studio, everywhere. If you tell me something, you’ll have to prove it to me. My sister tells me I should have been a lawyer because I will argue till you see my point of view. I’m a free spirit and speak the truth regardless.
What are some of the struggles you’ve faced as an activist and advocate for women and children’s empowerment and development in your community?
Fantacee Wiz: Single-handedly doing it is not easy, and it’s one of my struggles. I did a song on rape and violence against women, but it couldn’t reach everyone because I don’t have the resources. Sometimes people look at me like I don’t know what I’m doing. I have guys telling me “You won’t have a man in Sierra Leone”… “You’re too mouthy” … “Must you talk?”… “Why can’t you be like everyone else?”; but talk like that is what keeps me going.
You’re currently running a campaign “Say No to Rape”, what sparked this movement, and what are your views on the rape of women?
Fantacee Wiz: Last year a woman was allegedly raped, killed and dumped on the beach half naked, there are lots of rape cases I’ve heard of but that was extreme and it was a wake-up call for me. I recorded my campaign song entitled “Say No To Rape” to help spread awareness, because the rate at which women are raped in Sierra Leone is wrong and unacceptable. I think that those who are in power should enforce strong laws against rape perpetrators to minimize the rate at which women are raped in this country.
Nigeria just banned FGM (Female Genital Mutilation/Female circumcision), Sierra Leone is a country that still practices this tradition at a high rate. Do you think that banning the practice here would be a way forward for Sierra Leone?
Fantacee Wiz: No, I don’t think so because the Bondo as we call it, is a secret society for young women that go through a rites of passage to womanhood. In Bondo, women are taught how to raise a family, the value of womanhood, how to respect your husband and elders, etc. So it’s a lot more than just the cutting. The cutting is what I’d say is 15% of the Bondo.
Can you list three ways women can further unify? What ways are African women in Salone organizing themselves for empowerment?
Fantacee Wiz: Through music, fashion, movies, etc; by working together; and to stop seeing one another as competitors. When we as women realize that there’s a war out there against women and we need each other, working together will be the only way we can survive, and beat it.
Sierra Leone was named number two in healthiest diets on a global scale. Can you please explain for instance how do the natives traditionally use honey as medicine here in Salone?
Fantacee Wiz: My Mom uses honey as a remedy for colds, and sore throat. Put 3 table spoons in hot water, drink it and it works like magic. I know because I’ve tried it couple of times.
What is the relationship with Sierra Leonean women, and African women abroad? How do they support one another?
Fantacee Wiz: Sometimes on the rocky path, sometimes good; it’s just human nature. Social media makes it easier for us to network and help each other out.
Sometimes our diaspora sisters come to Sierra Leone to do shows, workshops etc. They receive help from sisters they’ve networked with before coming. I’ve been contacted a couple of times to give a helping hand and I did! Social media is a good tool when used for the right reasons, even though we have sisters back home shaming sisters abroad (it goes both ways) but regardless, we’re still helping one another.
How can our readers learn more from you, and support your campaign?
Fantacee Wiz: To learn more about me, and to join my movement, follow me on [social media].
SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES
YOUTUBE: Fantacee Wiz
Kenya Mansaray is Chairwoman of Black Star Action Network International. She’s a pan African, an activist, public speaker & writer. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Kenya is currently based in Sierra Leone, West Africa where she is involved in humanitarian work.
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