National Women’s Music Festival

Save the Date for 2021!

The 2021 National Women’s Music Festival
will be a virtual festival
during the first week of July.

Due to the uncertainty of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the availability of vaccinations,
we made the decision to stay home and be safe. Our goal is to create an inclusive online festival,
incorporating the many aspects of the festival.
SheRocks Stage, Spotlight Stage, Orchestra performance,
Workshops, Marketplace, Open Mics, and festival choruses

Announcing the winner of the 2022 Emerging Women Composers Competition!

Cara Haxo

Cara Haxo 

Women in the Arts is pleased to announce the winner of the 2021 Emerging Women Composers Competition. The award goes to Cara Haxo as a commission for the creation of a new piece for orchestra with women’s chorus to be premiered at the 2022 National Women’s Music Festival. Reflecting on her selection, NWMF Orchestra Music Director and Conductor Nan Washburn said “It was really exciting to see and hear works from so many talented composers who sent their applications to us. For me, Cara Haxo’s submission definitely stood out. Not only was her skill and creativity quite evident in the way she set the song texts, but it also was apparent in her delightfully inventive use of rhythms and tight harmonies.”

Nan Washburn directing the NWMF

The NWMF Chamber Orchestra is led by music director and conductor Nan Washburn. The NWMF Orchestra series celebrates the diversity of women’s musical expression through the presentation of works by women composers past and present. The program will include works by British composer and suffragette Ethel Smyth, film composer Rachel Portman, and others. In addition, members of the NWMF Chamber Orchestra can be heard in more intimate groups as part of the recital series which will take place in the Atrium throughout the festival.

SISTAH NGOMA ~ Drum, Dance and Song

A dynamic women’s multicultural drum, song, and dance group, performing traditional Afro-Cuban and world beat rhythms, poetic verse, dance, and plain ‘ol pulsating female passion and energy. Sistah Ngoma’s performances include the National Women’s music festival in Madison WI, and at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, Dennison University in Grandville, OH, the Community Festival and the Hot Times Festival in Columbus, OH., and the “Women’s Day of Prayer” at the Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, OH, Rocking in the Streets, Columbus, OH, and the River City Blues Festival, Marietta, OH.

Giwayen Mata

Home » Giwayen Mata

Giwayen Mata

GIWAYEN MATA is the award-winning, dynamic, soul-stirring, all-sistah, dance, percussion, and vocal ensemble that celebrates the richness of traditional Afrika by exhibiting its exemplary art forms. The ensemble performs traditional, contemporary and original pieces that address issues pertaining to people of color, women, and the environment. The seed for the ensemble was planted in 1991 when Ramatu Afegbua Mahmud Sabbatt organized sistahs for jam sessions in city parks of Atlanta. This was done in the spirit of the principles of Kuumba and Kujichagulia (Kiswahili words for creativity and self-determination).

This experience allowed many of the participating women to hone their respective talents either individually or with performing companies. In 1993, GIWAYEN MATA was formed in response to a call to Gail Vernon Zuri Sami Ra Maati Jordan from Amirah Wazir, the coordinator for Celebration ’93, an annual fundraising fashion show and Mother’s Day celebration sponsored by the women of the Atlanta Mas-jid Al Islam.  Amirah was seeking an all-female entertainment group. 

At Zuri’s request, Omelika Kuumba brought together eight of the other women from the jam sessions: Osunlade Fatunmise, Sarahn Henderson, Ife Hendricks, Sauda Jackson-Bey, Shalewa Mackall, Andrea Richards, Ramatu Sabbatt, and Ama Tyus. While rehearsing for Celebration ’93, the ensemble sought a name that would embrace the spirit and principles with which it was seeded. 

Ramatu, a native of Nigeria, shared the Hausa term GIWAYEN MATA with the ensemble.  The words literally translate as “Elephant Women”.   Elephants live in matriarchal social structures, and the

females are respected for their powerful yet gentle and nurturing nature. Leaders of women’s organizations in Nigeria are referred to as “the GIWAYEN MATA”.  This became the selected name and it is interpreted as “Elephant Leaders of Women” because the founders chose to be trailblazers, playing the jembe drum – an unprecedented first on the stages of Atlanta.  As artists of Afrikan descent, the ensemble felt a responsibility to be the leaders in the preservation of the cultures of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.

Under the direction of Omelika Kuumba and with the choreography of Ife Hendricks, these ten vibrant women prepared for the performance. The preparation schedule expectations were exceeded and the women demonstrated a spectacular debut concert, opening for New York’s Women of the Calabash at Spelman College’s Sisters Chapel months before the performance for which the ensemble had originally come together. Hailing from the US, Haiti, Senegal, and Ghana, GIWAYEN MATA 

represents women of international origins at various stages of womanhood. Collectively, they share more than 50 years of experience in modern, jazz, ballet, contemporary, Afrikan, Afrikan-American, and Caribbean dance forms, and sign language. Their backgrounds reflect multidisciplinary experiences as dancers, percussionists, choreographers, vocalists, thespians, poets, academicians, and lyricists.

As women of color GIWAYEN MATA represents the groups of people from whom the art forms originated. Pamelah Maragh brought technical expertise to the group.  It was her contributions that took the ensemble to the next level of performance. Through Pamela, GIWAYEN MATA began to create full-length productions complete with lighting designs. The first production under Pamelah’s technical direction was Rising to Our Power, the ensemble’s celebration of Women’s History Month.  As “Elephant Leaders of Women” the ensemble uplifts audiences with riveting performances that are empowering, educational,

See website for videos and audio samples

More NWMF Artists…

  • Staceyann ChinStaceyann ChinA spoken-word poet, performing artist and LGBT rights political activist.More about this Artist »
  • Holly NearHolly NearRespected around the world for her music and activism, her joy and passion inspire people to join in her celebration of the human spirit.More about this Artist »
  • Sarah Bush Dance ProjectSarah Bush Dance ProjectFeminism, Diversity, Excellence, Authenticity, Accessibility, Empowerment, Versatility, and Innovation.More about this Artist »
  • Suzanne WestenhoeferSuzanne WestenhoeferSuzanne tells the truth. The truth is life is funny, especially when it’s fermented in Suzanne’s mind.More about this Artist »
  • Giwayen MataGiwayen MataGiwayen Mata’s mission is to celebrate our lives as women and uplift our communities and our planet while perpetuating the cultures of Africa and the Afrikan Diaspora through the study, creation, teaching, and presentation of artistic media including dances, rhythms, songs, poetry, and prose around the world.More about this Artist
  • Kofy Brown BandKofy Brown BandKofy’s music is a soulful combination of funk, rock, blues and hip-hop topped off with a singing and rap style she calls word song.More about this Artist »
  • Natalia Zukerman and Lisa FerraroNatalia Zukerman and Lisa FerraroSeekHer7: collaborative, conscious, collective gatherings with meditation, music, movement, learning, co-creating, deep listening, respectful, safe discovery and above all, boundless joy.More about this Artist »
  • Be SteadwellBe SteadwellA blend of soul, acapella and folk-Be calls her music QUEER POP.More about this Artist »
  • e nina jaye nina jayPoet and the 2019 Emerging Artist Competition WinnerMore about this Artist »
  • Hardened and TemperedHardened and TemperedHardened and Tempered: hard enough to hold an edge; soft enough not to break. Austin-based duo Kristin Davidson and Carolyn Phillips live that balance and express it in their music. Their songs take root in the storytelling traditions of folk and country and flourish with textured melodies and harmonies, revealing an intimate look at the human condition and …More about this Artist »
  • Tammy L. HallTammy L. HallTammy’s core sound: a fusion of Jazz, Gospel and Classical.More about this Artist »
  • Nancy Scott with Millie MarlowNancy Scott with Millie MarlowFor over 40 years she has been creating songs ranging from folk to blues blended with a touch of country that draws upon her daily experiences and expresses her soul. More about this Artist »
  • Sandra VallsSandra VallsSandra Valls is a comic, actor, singer, writer, and badass.More about this Artist »
  • Big Bad Gina BandBig Bad Gina BandMore about this Artist »
  • Sistah NgomaSistah NgomaA dynamic women’s multicultural drum, song, and dance groupMore about this Artist »
  • Bonnie Morris, Ph.D. – Keynote SpeakerBonnie Morris, Ph.D. – Keynote SpeakerFeatured SpeakerMore about this Artist »
  • Renée JanskiDirector of the NWMF Vocal ChorusMore about this Artist »
  • Jori CostelloJori CostelloDirector of the Ukulele ChorusMore about this Artist »
  • Wahru and Rani Biffle-QuimbaWahru and Rani Biffle-QuimbaDirectors of the NWMF Drum ChorusMore about this Artist »
  • Jamie Anderson – Open Mic Host & so much more!Jamie Anderson – Open Mic Host & so much more!“… a barrel of laughs and a whole bunch of talent.” – Amanda Putz, CBC Radio “As a writer, Jamie takes the archetypical forms of folk music and storytelling and turns them on their heads! A fresh (in every sense) and original artist.” — Catie Curtis Singer-songwriter-parking lot attendant Jamie Anderson has played her unique …