I have been thinking and speaking a lot about Afrikan peoples agency in the so called modern world. The agency I am thinking about here is not the unquestionable contributions by Afrikans in the cultural and creative spheres, but on the material or even industrial levels. In simple terms, what are we making and how does it serve we as a people and humanity at large? In a world where almost everything is manufactured in China, what is Afrika’s contribution to industrial development of itself, from architecture to biochemicals to infrastructure and even educational institutions?
Since we have begun using terms such as the Creative Economy, Cultural Capital and Material Culture, it is imperative that we ask and answer the question: Whither Afrikan Contributions to the things we use daily, such as technological innovations as well as basic things such as everyday clothing, utensils and tools and resources used in commercial trades?
As already stated, there are many interrelated aspects of material culture, and Afrikans have contributed many materials and inventions that are used daily by many other peoples. But in general we Afrikans appear to be overwhelmingly saturated with so called Western inventions, even though much of what is called European is often traces its origins to the East ( Asia as well as Ancient Arab and Muslim civilizations).
I have been reading Mario Andrade Pissarra’s Masters’ Thesis titled Decolonisation, Aesthetics and The Roles Of An Artist In A Changing Society. We were fortunate enough to source this thesis from the author/ researcher himself. While I was delving into the questions raised, such as “the role of art in society and understanding ways in which art advances social change or reinforces systems of social control’. If we can adequately respond to this significant question, we would sufficiently solve various social challenges simultaneously. The education, tertiary training, industrial development, scientific innovations and a plethora of other spheres of endeavor. What we must keep in mind is that Creativity and Arts have a potential to connect almost everything, it is the field of freed imagination and work.
I was reminded of another significant piece of writing by one of the most versatile and creative Cultural workers from Southern Africa. On 11 June 2019, I made a note of Mike Van Graan’s Critique of the Revised White Paper, the 4th Draft of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage, in which he asks the following:
“What is the point of laudable principles, if there are laws and practices that actually contradict these principles. Should the laws and practices now be changed to align them with the principles espoused in the policy?”
Van Graan notes that the Revised White Paper makes no analysis of the Department of Arts and Culture and its capacity to manage, implement, monitor and take corrective action with regard to cultural policy. These are the questions which a Thesis such as that of Pissarra should also grapple with, since the whole thesis is also premised on the question of decolonisation and Afrika’s representation. When Pissarra asks, “What critical frameworks are being formulated to articulate African aesthetics?” We could very much view that as a policy development question ….
The various conferences that happen all over Afrika and the whole wide world, may have very well answered some of these questions, we simply have to find ways to collate and utilize the best policies and put them into practice in our various localities.