The term “Giwayen Mata” comes from the Hausa ethnic group of Nigeria and West Africa. It means “Elephant Women” and often refers to the leaders of women’s organizations. For a group of dancers and drummers who came together in Atlanta in 1993, it was the perfect term for their trailblazing performance style.
Atlanta’s Giwayen Mata first brought their drums together for a gathering of Muslim women. The women wanted to dance, but their faith did not permit it in front of men. At the time, only a handful of women in the Atlanta area were playing the djembe and other African drums traditionally played by men. Several of the female drummers assembled for the event and had such a good time that they stayed together, eventually coalescing into a drum and dance performance group.
Now, Giwayen Mata not only performs, but also teaches classes and workshops in drumming and African dance. They perform traditional dances as well as modern works inspired by the dances of Mali, the Ivory Coast, South Africa, Guinea, and others. And since 1993, these “elephant leaders of women” have become a fixture on the Atlanta arts scene.