Damini Awoyiga

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.

Twelve year-old Damini Awoyiga is encouraging girls to be creative and to find their voice during the COVID-19 lockdown.

A poet, singer, and award-winning author, Damini recently got a sewing machine. She says that sewing is an important skill for women whose bodies don’t always fit the mainstream model:

Some of the jeans that brands make aren’t the best fitted for a Black woman’s body. My dad and I have had to modify some of my clothes.

Damini is working on a dress for her next school talent show, and hopes to start a fashion line someday for Black women and other women that better represents the broad range of body types in society. While she was learning to sew, she decided to make masks using fabrics from Nigeria that reflect her heritage:

I chose African print fabrics because it’s unique. Other people may not be able to draw on my culture like I can. My culture means a lot to me because I’m able to say I’m Nigerian-Canadian and African, so it gives me a sense of pride. 

Her parents sometimes help her to sew, but without “three or four extra hands” the masks take about 30 minutes to complete. According to Damini, the masks symbolize survival and community looking out of each other. As the province reopens, masks allow people to interact safely together in public. She hopes to use them to send a message of pride and resilience, and to share the values of her culture with others.

Damini says that creativity is an important way for young people, and especially girls, to assert and empower themselves.

In her poetry, Damini sends unapologetically feminist messages to girls. For the past two years, she has performed  in front of hundreds of girls at the Girls Conference at Mount Saint Vincent University, sharing poems about body empowerment, overcoming sexism and racism, and not being afraid to speak up.

Now that children are dealing with COVID, she advocates for children to use creative ways to express themselves and to cope:

It took me a while to get used to the restrictions. At the start of lockdown, I kind of wished I had somewhere to go or to school, but now I’m kind of enjoying my time at home. 

At the start of COVID and right now too, I’ve been going to the end of my driveway and writing encouraging messaging for people that walk or drive by. 

I think kids can be creative by things like writing on your driveway to show we’re all in this together and that we care, or also by something like posting encouraging pictures of things they drew or painted. 

Damini says kids should not be scared of trying new things. She encourages kids to have fun learning and creating, and to challenge themselves to share their work with others.

Damini’s mother Folake supports her in all her creative pursuits:

Something that we’re really happy about is that she’s taking things in her stride, to learn new skills and improve herself and to continue to learn and grow. We’re really proud of her and the person that she’s becoming, because she can do this at a hard time for all of us, and she’s able to turn it into a positive thing.

People interested in ordering a mask can reach Damini at daminicreatives@gmail.com.

Damini shared her poem “Coronavirus why” with the Examiner.

Coronavirus why

Coronavirus I ask why
Why are you here ?
Why are you making people fear ?
Why did you come
at this time of year?

2020 was supposed to be
New beginnings
All of us living together
I don’t think any kid my age
Has ever experienced
Anything like this before
Things have happened before but
No
nothing like this

Coronavirus
Or should I say
COVID -19
You came on a plain November day
To claim our human race
Not just in one place
You infected
Our mothers fathers sisters brothers sons and daughters
What if we had stayed home ?
Would all these people still have been infected ?

Coffee shops saying
We only do drive thrus
Don’t let them in
They might infect you
All around the world
Cities are Ghost towns
No people on the streets
Malls empty with no sound
No children roaming around
They are all in their homes safe and sound

Grocery store shelves bare
Cause all we did was prepare
Prepare
Prepare
prepare

Prepare –  get hand sanitizer
People rushed
People rushed to get to the stores
But at the end of the hustle
people saw
Unimaginable prices for hand sanitizer
Then it was no bottles left
Nothing to spare
So all we did was stare
Stare into the open spaces
Stare into the dying faces
places filled with faces covered with masks
Smells of sanitizer
Roaming the air like smoke
From wildfires

Governments
And
Schools
Saying
Work from home..
Stay away from other people..
Stay..
In..
Your…
Homes…

Scientist looking for solutions
But still, cases arise
But we can try to prevent other people from dying
or getting infected by self-isolating/staying home
Many people have died worldwide
But What more will you take
What more should we give
All we want is to live
For life to get back to normal


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El Jones

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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