Tosin Taiwo, alias Tosinger, is committed to carrying both the oral and visual storytelling traditions. #We3Queens, the Nigerian artist’s most recent human art installation piece, is a remarkable statement of gratitude to the influential female African leaders we rarely hear about.
Queen Mother Idia of the Benin Kingdom (now Southwest Nigeria), Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba (now Northern Angola), and Queen Yaa Asantewaa of the Ashanti Tribe are crucial to the project (present-day Ghana).
All three queens are famed for their political savvy, unshakable fearlessness, and legendary military prowess.
“African history is also African American history,” the 45-year-old performer insists. She said that I was born in Nigeria and only traveled out as a full-grown adult.
Tosin Taiwo continued by saying, “I moved to London in my early 20s to get my Masters at Nottingham University. At that point, the closest I had been to a creative outlet was music, when I sang in the church choir. After my Masters, I looked for a creative art school and honed in my skills musically. In Nigeria, we think that everywhere is like New York. When I moved to Oklahoma, I was like, “What is this?”
It’s dry, cold, and the people were not friendly — almost racist. I’ve been embracing those spaces, and they know me. I still express African in the way I present, my appearance, and in my art. And that’s how you express culture — through food, clothing, language, and art. Those are ways I stay connected.
The #We3QUEEN project has picked Queen Idia, Queen Nzinga, and Queen Yaa Asantewaa to represent Nigeria.” I was at an African music concert with a friend, speaking Yoruba, when a costume designer I worked with approached us and said, “You’re from Nigeria, right? I’m the same way. Queen Nzinga, Queen Yaa, and her female-led army are well-known for guarding the Ashanti Kingdom of Ghana’s sacred stool. I chose those three queens because of their stories and their roles during the arrival of the white colonial masters.
She was asked to talk about her move to the USA, and she said;
“I met my husband while I lived in London, and he’s a Nigerian-born, American citizen. So I left the UK to join him in Oklahoma, US.
You know, in Nigeria, we watch American movies, and we think that everywhere is like New York. You have the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so that’s the image we all have of America. Then, I moved to Oklahoma, and I was like, “What is this?” It’s dry, cold, and the people were not nice — almost racist. I was buzzing coming from a city like London and was excited to get into the creative arts. I found one theatre company through Google, and when my friend and I arrived, the first and only thing they said to me — after huddling in a corner and whispering about us — was, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have color-specific roles here.” This was in 2002. I was shocked. We had not even told them why we were there.
After that experience, I looked up favorable places for Black creators in the USA, and Atlanta and New York came up. Atlanta’s history interested me more, so I applied to a creative art school there, just hoping to get in somewhere. I got into a prestigious school for art administration, and I’ve been in Atlanta since 2011. Anything to do with Africa and music — I’m there. I started performing in small spaces and started acting, too.”
At the end of the interview session, Tosin Taiwo was asked about her dream for the #We3Queens and her plans to turn it into a series. She said,
“That’s the whole idea, I might change up the queens over time. I don’t know if I want to do it as a Black History Month thing, it depends on the request for it. I can add other elements that will make it more interesting, I could turn it into a theatrical piece also, a one-woman show. Things like that. It’s definitely not the last of it, it could evolve. The format could evolve. It can definitely involve other queens, too.”