A Step Into the OSHUNiverse: A Conversation with Afrofuturistic Hip-Hop Duo OSHUN on Empowerment & Reclamation
Interview by Parisa Eshrati
Similar to the eponym of the Yoruba goddess of love, hip-hop duo OSHUN are on a mission to spread messages of spiritual and self love. Their latest album, bittersweet vol. 1, uses afrofuturism as a tool for empowerment, and provides offerings for women on their journey to preistesshood. We caught up with members Thandiwe and Niambi Sala in an email interview to discuss crystals, prayers, and affirmations to keep your chakras hydrated, plus much more.
T&E: Your music and visual themes speak to both ancient Yoruba traditions and wildly futuristic imagery (à la Parliament Funkadelic). Can you talk a bit about the significance of interweaving themes of the ancient past and future in order to paint a picture of the present? And how has the Afrofuturism aesthetic specifically helped you on your journey of spreading messages of self-love and empowerment?
OSHUN: Afrofuturism allows us to spread love and empowerment by creatively imagining our tomorrow. We are interweaving ancient principles and practices from the past with our experiences of today in a dope way that allows our message to be received.
You coined the term “Iya-Sol” for your genre, “iya” stemming from the Yoruba term meaning priestess and mother. This idea of priestesshood and womanhood being synonymous is brought up a lot in your lyrics too, so can you elaborate on what the “priestess” title means to you and how it reflects the way you dictate your own growth in womanhood.
Our ability to serve as Iya is a parameter for our growth in womanhood. We are aware of ourselves developing towards motherhood and priesthood. While we are not currently mothers or priestesses – we are in constant preparation so we can be of service to our families and community. The reason way we choose the genre ‘Iya-Sol’ is because our work is healing. Our connection to our womanhood is through healing, and as healers we pay tribute to OSHUN and share our energy with the world.
You’ve discussed in previous interviews that we as human beings are extensions of the goddess Oshun’s love and sweetness. However, your last album, bittersweet vol. 1, reminds us of the bitterness that’s intertwined with this joy. What’s the significance of this contrast, and what kind of self-care practices do you do/recommend to remind ourselves of our inherent sweetness that is Oshun’s gift?
OSHUN embodies abundance, joy, and victory. These principles allow us the power to transform adversity into joy and wealth. Our self-care practices include taking time in the morning to say affirmations to remind you of the person you want to be. Write things down and don’t ignore the negative – write it out and plan how to transform it. Watch it manifest.
The song “Solar Plexus” is about boostin' those chakras and keep them shining bright. As vocalists, I’d like to know what kind of work or affirmations you use to keep your throat chakra so strong and rooted in your own truth.
We pray at least once a day. Affirm our goals and dreams, we speak abundance and protection over ourselves and our families. And this daily practice alone strengthens our voice chakra.
Sunflowers have played such a big part in your imagery, and you even call your crew #sunflowersquad. Aside from the cheerful connotations of sunflowers, what do they symbolize for you and your musical message?
Sunflowers are significant in a number of ways. Sunflowers always position themselves toward the sun. Wherever the sun rises the sunflowers grow in that direction and they radiate in that direction reflecting the light of the sun. That’s what we are – the sunflower squad. We are positioning ourselves toward the light. Allowing the light to nourish us, energize us and reflect. Through another lens, sunflowers are also used as an offering to OSHUN within the African diaspora.
There has always been themes of reclamation in your music, both on a micro and macro lens. You bring up reclamation of femininity on an individual scale, and also discuss the larger image of African-Americans reclaiming their identities after all that has been lost in history. Can you elaborate on this idea of reclamation and transformation working from both ends of the spectrum?
When we talk about reclamation we are having a conversation about reconnecting with parts of ourselves that have been strategically removed from us by society. When we understand that our culture and divine femininity literally empowers, us we understand why reclamation is necessary.
And how does the above sentiment correlate to your messages of self-love and the bigger notion of spiritual love? Can one exist without the other?
Spiritual love and self-love is one of the same. Self-love is loving yourself holistically, mind, body and spirit. Another apart of loving yourself holistically is learning about yourself, your roots, and your chemistry and loving all those parts of you.
I love how you both are always rockin’ some crystals and incorporate their magic into your lyrics too. Do either of you have a personal favorite crystal? What crystals would you recommend for someone to use as a tool for harnessing self-love?
Rose Quartz is always a go to stone for the both of us. It vibrates on the frequency of love which is so multi-dimensional yet so accessible. Rose Quartz is associated with the water element so it has hydrating and healing properties. We would recommend this crystal to harness self-love.
What else can we look forward to from you both? Any new music on the horizon?
bittersweet vol.1 DELUX! We have a care package coming. In the meantime check out the “We’re Yung” music video on YouTube! And of course tell your friends to look out for our future shows near them. #bittersweetTOUR
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.