On Reading and Building

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.

A People Under Construction

Under Construction

Introduction: “Money is just an agreement. Money only has value because people believe it has value. It is something that we create through our agreements. You can say that money is a story. It’s the symbols that we interpret in a certain way, and that means that they’re valuable. So why have we agreed to create a system of value that is the enemy of all of the beautiful things we want to do?” – Charles Eisenstein: Sacred Economics and Beyond

In Africa it is as if something is always under construction, yet the building is hardly ever finished.

‘- so much beauty and yet so much pain…” – So croons the African American Rhythm & Blues man. This paradoxical lyric about the world we live in could just as well be referring solely to the continent called Africa. It is arguably the most gang-raped and the most severely violated of all places in the known Earth. Even though no one can monopolise or even compare the share of suffering with another, for surely the whole planet is clearly a place of immeasurable and unmitigated misery. The place where mankind was first conceived takes the proverbial cake, hands down.

One Reggae singer wails in with a lamentation: “Africa is the richest place/ but still has the poorest race…” This is a serious existential crisis and many more singers, Poets and novelist and not to mention academics and development scholars have written tomes about the subject of Africa’s ‘under-development’, yet none have come up with a solution that resonates through out all the tribes, nations and every individual in this continent. The repetitive calls for unification and the eloquent prescriptions and descriptions of Africa’s cultural unity seem to have landed on deafened ears.

How can the richest place remain the home of the poorest race? It just doesn’t make any sense. Are African not as hardworking as other races? Have we not been able to unlearn the mental shackles from the centuries of slavery, apartheid and the emasculation of our forefathers, the rape of our foremothers?

A young man has recently sent me a message that reads “…We should not look at Africa as being backwards, but rather we should look at it as being preserved for US (Africans) to develop it better/accordingly…”. It is not indicated where this is quoted from, but it is obvious that it comes from someone who is very optimistic about the destiny of the Mother continent.

Another Rhythm & Blues singer cries “the place where mankind was born/is now neglected and torn…torn apart…” This are just a few of the indications that many are not just aware of the plight of this beloved land, but they are eager to see a change, perhaps a radical transformation that will suely bring about Africa’s renewal.

This is a matter that we can no longer afford to sweep under the various prevailing political, religious and ideological carpets. We all have to become impatient, creative and effective in bringing about the New African, a people who have a keen insight of what kind of society they want to bestow upon the up coming generations. Africa is everyone’s responsibility just as much as she has been every ones victim, but she cannot afford to play victim forever, there is a time and place allocated for everything and Africa’s time for regeneration is upon us.

Many of the shining lights who have lived and died in order that we all become free and for Africa to be see in a human and divine light have been snuffed out. By bullet or secret ballot, much of our currency and dignity has been stolen. This embezzlement of our life has left us like a field that can hardly be expected to yield the expected fruits; very few seeds can survive our acute form of desertification.  Even the seems we do possess have been ‘doctored’; Multi-national gangsters and mass murderers have managed to twist the life inside seeds rendering them inept. The tsetse fly and the shitty-water, the gravel road and the sewerage drain. The death by asphyxiation inside zinc and corrugated iron shacks are still Africa’s lot. W live in a paradise but we are far from heaven. Some say ‘the sickness is in the South but the cure is in the North’.

“We blacks have it to the whitest bone!!!”; So sang my fellow Poets at the Nowadays Poets sessions in Durban, a divine statement if there ever was one. The statement illustrates just how tied to the colonial experience we still are. In these days of Decolonization, an arduous task requiring a multitude of interventions, we need to also invent new languages that speak to what we ought to becoming.