Despite being nearly 50 years in orbit, there are parts of the world where hip-hop culture is not necessarily widely accepted. Senegal, the West African country known for its stable government and civilian rule where 94% of its population are Muslims is one of those places. However, there is a group of people in Senegal who believe in hip-hop and Mina La Voilée is one of them.
Mina La Voilée is French for Mina the veiled. Mina is a 27-year-old rapper from Dakar, Senegal who is also practitioner Sunni Islam, the country’s predominant religion. In a recent profile by BBC, when speaking about the backlash she frequently encounters from pursuing rap, the Genji Hip Hop rapper revealed how most doubters drop the label “satan” to express their discernment.
“My story is that I wanted to be a musician. But I couldn’t do it because of my veil and rap was the music that spoke to me the most. I was told that you can’t be a veiled girl and a rapper at the same time.”
Mina is not alone, either. She is one of the main rappers of Genji Hip Hop, a Senegalese female hip-hop collective with up to 70 young women featuring rappers, DJs, graffiti artists, dancers, and singers.
Whenever Mina grabs the mic, she does not box herself in with her religious sector. She considers herself to be a pure musician with a message. Veil or no veil. Even those who are close to her recognize this. However, her modernized, civilized, and open-minded approach has rubbed some of the people of Senegal the wrong way.
“Firstly, there are people who encourage me, who say the veil has nothing to do with being a musician. There are also insults. Some people tell me I’m the embodiment of Satan and I’m just here to spoil the religion.”
Keep in mind, Mina la voilée is not the average western-influenced type of artist who is going to consistently rap about relationships, material things, and clout. Leave that up to the afrobeats artists of West Africa. She views hip-hop as a gateway to vocalize change. Through rap, Mina has evolved into an activist fighting for women’s rights in Senegal where the resistance to revolt comes to war with religious devotion.
“As a woman, I think there are topics that I would be able to speak about more than men. For example, underage marriage, the fact that women have no right to speak, female genital mutilation, rape, and other crimes. People are going to call me a feminist, I’m fine with that,” she said.
“Recently in Senegal, there are girls who have been raped and killed. This phenomenon is growing here in Senegal.”
Mina La Voilée’s courage to take on hip-hop’s rap element is an inspiration for many of the veiled women of Senegal. With the aggressive restriction on women’s choice, Mina’s concerts have encouraged young veiled women in Senegal to come out of their homes to attend and enjoy themselves. The act is bittersweet for the women of Senegal. The act is also revealing about how hip-hop can be used as a powerful tool to push for a human right as destined as freedom.