Which Africa do you see? Art for Africa
I thought I should share with you, dear reader, some thoughts, ideas and quotes from some of the continent’s most inspiring thinkers from the Tedx JHB salon stage. For more context on the conference from my perspective you can read here: Tedx: Art for Africa.
The theme: Art for Africa
We all know by now that Africa means different things to different people. To some it is merely the boundaries and the territories, but to a lot it is more than a place. As Vusi Mahlasela so beautifully put it; ‘I may be walking in the streets of a city called London, but the dust on my boots & the rythym of my feet & my heartbeat say Africa”. There is the Africa that “they see”, there is the Africa that we talk about (rising, falling, dead, rising again) and then there’s the 6000 other Africas that we imagine and reimagine everyday.
Author Ashraf Jamal, speaks of Africa as a powerstaton, he speaks of Africa as a struggle on behalf of humanity. Africa as the face of humanity. This rings true to me. History, through the out of Africa theory would remind us of Africa as birthplace, of not only the ‘modern’ conscious being, but also as birthplace of humanity. Here’s a post I wrote on the out of Africa theory, if you want to read a bit more about it (out of Africa theory)
Insanely talented multi-disciplinary artist Aida Muluneh, speaks of using art to advocate for her community in Ethiopia. “How do I share that which I am passionate about with the world……which is my people?” - she asks. Through her artwork, photography and Addis Foto Fest, Aida has set herself a task of making culture a critical part of development.
Neelika Jayawardane’s speech was probably the most impactful to me. She spoke a lot about ‘brushing off’ violences that the dominant culture inflicts on the rest of us. “The psychology & mental tax which is humouring the dominant group for being offensive and violent” or the uncompensated labour of constantly explaining and educating…. 'teaching people how to pronouce your name, explaining why a comment is sexist or racist, explaining why certain things are important in your culture, etc'. Neelika reminded me that I have the freedom to choose not to be implicated by all this. She reminded me that I can and have every right to be offended, that I can unchain myself from the violence of those who not only violate you but train you to tolerate that violation.
Performing artist, Lerato Shadi, challenged me to take ownership of learning about the hundreds of women who have been erased throughout history, whose narratives have been at best distorted, if not forgotten. She reminded me about the silent and unrecognised labour of those who have built our history. I challenge you dear reader, to engage in some labour of going through the internet, the history books, the archives and finding one name of a woman in history, whose story is untold and forgotten. It won’t be easy, it will be labour…but let this be a symbol of the toil and sweat of those who came before us and worked for us.
Jim Chuchu, of the Nest of Collective, reminded me that as we create and make and do….the kids are watching. We are currently framing an Africa that will influence how our kids kids’ see themselves.