this teenage poet perfectly articulates what it means to be a girl
From always listening to her aunties, to the advice she’d give to her son, Abondance Matanda offers her notes on being a woman.
Photography Finn Constantine
Ever since she first put pen to paper (read: fingers to keyboard) Abondance Matanda has been a wizard with words. Though it wasn’t until Year 10, during a poetry project about Black History Month, that she began to take writing seriously. Clogging up the notes section on her iPhone, Abondance penned around nine poems about black British culture, which she then made into 200 booklets, stapling each page together, hand-painting the covers, and totally, utterly rinsing the school printers in the process, when she should have been revising for her GCSEs.
With her exams out of the way, Abondance went on to author and self-publish two more poetry books: Da Poetry of My Existence and Bare Fucker1es, the latter of which she launched to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Mark Duggan’s shooting, accompanied by an 11-minute mix on Mixcloud. She’s a big fixture on the DIY zine fair circuit and London poetry scene.
Inspired by the words of Grace Nichols, Alice Walker, Ms. Dynamite, and other powerful black women, Abondance's poetry tends to focus on her experience as a black working class female and her coming of age experiences growing up in Tottenham. But her work is as much an examination of the self as it is a commentary on wider social issues, power dynamics and youth politics in London today.
Not just confined to poetic form, Abondance uses her words in a variety of ways, scribing articles about art and culture for badass feminist platforms like gal-dem and Sula Collective. She’s also co-founder of Road Gals LDN, a female collective dedicated to documenting women in grime and hip-hop. Basically, we’re obsessed and we think you will be too. So, here are her notes on being a woman.
The best thing about being a woman is our intuition.
The hardest thing about being a woman is being so powerful that the world wants to contain you and sometimes you let it.
The best advice that someone ever gave me about human bodies is that stretching makes you taller.
When I was 16 I had the totally wrong idea about my mum. I thought my she hated me. Her love was just clumsy.
The most unexpected thing I’ve found about being a woman is that we don’t actually need to be more like men, those bludclarts need to be more like us.
The films that taught me most about being a woman are Top Girl and Babymother. The books are Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid.
My favourite song about being a woman is Ms Banks’s second Mad About Bars freestyle. It came out on Christmas Day 2016. Realist gift.
The women I admire most are the ones in my family. I’ve got enough aunties and cousins who show me the way. It’s mad how they made this blueprint of how to navigate life and I get to amend it according to how I’m set up, which is so similar to them anyway. Grace Ladoja is a big one as well. I don’t know her but she seems to carry herself with bare integrity, stays true and connected to her roots, works hard for the people she cares about and looks after herself, dresses like a boss, always travelling. I’m trying to be on that level, and Grace seems to encourage us youngsters to surpass our elders, so I’m trying to do that and then take on the same role.
The best thing about getting older is making your younger self proud by living out their dreams and more. It’s amazing because that youth is still in you and even guiding you, cheering you on if you’re listening. That’s the best thing -- knowing that they’re still there, still alive.
The biggest lie about getting older is you’re a big person when you touch 16/18/21. Pure gass.
I feel like a grown-up most when giving my parents money.
Love is like a big-ass beast, a huge ancient dragon or something mad like that. It’s got this fiery desire to protect you. It would kill for you. It’s always got the intention to warm you up but it’s clumsy so it burns you sometimes.
I’m happiest when I go to Bagel King and there’s no queue.
Alexa Chung asks: If you had a son, what would you like tell him about women? I'd tell him we're the greatest thing on this godforsaken planet so he best listen to us and love us if he knows what’s good for his ass, but I'd do more showing than telling because talk is cheap, really and truly.
My question for the next woman doing this column would be: What’s the difference between being a woman and a girl?