State of the Arts in Southern Afrika

A great part of the Green Ankh Works vision includes the making of sustainable creative, cultural events throughout the Southern African Development Community and beyond. These events, must not only be economically or commercially successful, but they should have an impact that transcends tourism brochures and public relations or advertising. The primary purpose is to touch people’s lives in the most positive way.

Today we are exposed to an almost overwhelming amount of information, the proverbial internet of things is upon us, yet artists, creative people and many aspects of the cultural economy remain impoverished. There is either very poor or negative appreciation of the roles of the artists, idealists and social entrepreneurs or there is blatant disregard for authenticity. It may have a lot to do with the socio-economic conditioning of all of us under a neoliberal or capitalist world which favours competition over collaboration, or it is simply a survival game where corruption and corruptibility is built into the very sinews of the system. Either way, we as Afrikans are joining the rest of the world in becoming “less Spiritual“, more materialistic and less socially responsible, ‘we are following the material that we created rather then the spiritual force that creates it’, as Toumani Diabate mentioned during his 2009 concert in Cape Town. Essentially we are losing Ubuntu to materialism and are largely distracted from community participation by programming, commercial interests as well as social media.

In my next post I will write about my experience at the Creative and Cultural Industries Federation of South Africa conference which took place in Joburg on 31st of May 2018. This is where we were supposed to engage rigorously with a Policy document that is geared towards regulating and organising the Creative/Cultural economy in Southern Afrika, my aim is to use this platform to promote synergies within the whole SADC region and beyond, beginning with South Afrika/Azania and Zimbabwe. But for now, just listen to this beautiful, deeply spiritual music from the West Afrikan brother Diabate Sounds

 

 

 

New Myths Needed

I just love the first song that they have chosen to begin with during the break of this Conversation, its title, “One Day Suffer Go Finish‘, says it all.

Part of Discussion: ‘The distance between how things are and how things should be in Zimbabwe” – ( Man from Chitungwiza

Having followed the Chimurenga and Chimurenga Chronic publication/movement, for as long as it has existed, part of my ambition as a writer has been to publish some stories or even essays and poems in this auspicious black radical publication. I was also glad when the Pan African Space Station was launched. It basically fused the literature and live Chimurenga music sessions to the whole revolutionary concepts. I could say more, but I am always keenly aware of the data-struggle among my people, not all of we have WiFi and affordable data. So it would be best to listen to this. I must add though, that since coming to live in Zimbabwe recently with my family, the urge to do work in and around Harare is huge. Part of it has to do with the realization of what Chimurenga entails, in its various aspects, but it is also about the texture of the land and the struggles and lives of the people of both Zimbabwe and South Africa. There is lots happening in terms of Art, Violence and Revolutionary possibilities in both these countries, in fact my upcoming book, The House of Plenty is an attempt at making sense of how beauty, strength, wealth and hope and suffering can coexist. We shall also investigate what really keeps Afrikan countries, particularly in the SADC region from developing at apace.

Knowledge Reigns Supreme

I have never seen this interview until now, but I overstand why it did not trend. The society we live in today is allergic of the truth. The real human truth, the GOD truth which is beyond our coloured struggles and racial biases and delusions and illusions of supremacy. What KRS says here is too true, uncomfortably true even for me, but I cannot shake the fact that it is the truth.
KRS ONE Rock, Rock On!!!

Where Are The Servants of the People?

http://theconversation.com/presidential-term-limits-slippery-slope-back-to-authoritarianism-in-africa-96796?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%20102148976&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%20102148976+CID_405c6d69ba8883a8b29c7cc089e1688e&utm_source=campaign_monitor_africa&utm_term=Presidential%20term%20limits%20slippery%20slope%20back%20to%20authoritarianism%20in%20Africa

Black Science and Black Science Fiction

he warped time and space to deliver a message to eternity.” – Early Samuel R. Delaney

Delaney won the Nebula prize his science fiction novella Babel 17 in 1966, and won the Nebula and the Hugo Award for his 1968 novella titled, Time Considered as a Helix of Semi Precious Stones, and his monumental novel Nova was one of the best SF novels of the sixties.He was described by critic Algis Budrys as ‘the best science fiction writer in the world’, all this for a writer who happened to be Black, or Afrikan American, writing in a genre that was not yet considered the forte of Black people, whether writers or readers.But we have always told fantastical stories and some have written them too, but how many of us read them? Perhaps it was the titles of science fiction novels that tickled my poetic fancy, as I have always been into more political reading, but then again, there are vast landscapes and expansively intricate sub-political plots in many science fiction novels. I still look forward to finding Delaney’s short-story titled,”We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line,”

Good Music possesses a similar power to great fiction, fictions that alter reality, inspiring us to achieve hitherto unimagined feats.
One of my favourite artists today is, Janelle Monae’, she is into Science Fiction, it is evident in the design and cinematography of her videos, but more apparent in her debut album The ArchAndroid, as well her latest visionary offering Dirty Computer. Monae’ is among those creators that others call Afro-Futurists. It is a term that some embrace and some refuse to be subsumed under,just as the likes of Ben Okri and Amos Toutoula and Octavia E. Butler refused to be labeled as Magic Realists, or Fantasy writers. Although the latter is better known as a pioneering Science Fiction writer, she too is much more than any label. It is my wish that one day soon, such creators become more popular and read widely especially among Black communities, their stories could be the missing connection that we need to not only make sense of the dread conditions of Black existence, but they also offer impressive ideas and solutions towards what we can become if we were free to self-determine.

One day soon, I shall write about what I think about the potential impact of Black writers on society, if only reading was as popular in Southern Africa as it is in other parts of the world. There are just so many ifs and buts.Like, if only more young Black folks would listen to jazz, alternative electronic music as well as more Afrikan traditional sounds.There are so many writers, but who reads? SO many visual artists, but who is viewing and purchasing their work, so many producers of great art, inventions and progressive ideas, but so many impediments, mostly due to the sheer amount of historically based social ignorance.
Sometimes I write a few short stories which can be slotted into the genre called Science Fiction or Fantasy. I have not published any of these except for submitting some to some competitions where I have made the top 5 or top 3 of the selections, nevertheless, I can state unequivocally that I am a lazy writer. I should be writing everyday or at least producing a single short-story a week, considering the amount of ideas that flow through my head on a daily basis, even my dreams are the stuff of sheer mad-genius. Even though I am interested in writing fiction, I am more passionate about sociological writing, if I had the vocabulary I would write more about music. There is no excuse these days for not having a vocabulary or at least some knowledge about any subject – I mean, we have the internet. There is very little that cannot be known, at least at the novice level, as long as you have wifi or data.

Re-Afrikanization or Another Dead End?

My heart yearns for the glory of an Africa that is gone. But I shall labour for the birth of a new Africa, free and great among the nations of the world.”
– Anton Lembede

Many African nationalists do believe that Western imperialism was an exercise in divide and rule. The argument sometimes sounds like the following, ‘We were all Africans until colonialism split us into Ugandans, Kenyans. Ghanaians, and Ivorians.’ The logical jump is the assertion that Africans must ‘therefore’ have previously been just ‘Africans’. It is not a simple case of the very word African being itself non-African in origin, however true that may be. Rather it is a case of the inhabitants of the continent having known other, often narrower, group identities than ‘Ugandans’, and ‘Ivorians’ before colonial rule.” – Ali Mazrui, The Africans: A Triple Heritage

Did the experience of colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade unite us as Afrikans only to divide us as Blacks? Can we not be simultaneously proud to be Black and retain our loyal identity as Afrikans, or is it a case of not being able to functionally coexists with both?
Today I am hearing more and more of my comrades advocating for a return to African Nationalism. They are evoking the likes of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, Marcus Garvey and various other Afrikanist leaders from the bygone era. They state that the term Black no longer suffices as a definition of who we are, as people of this rich continent we should simply be known as Afrikans qha. I find it alarming and quite regressive, because I assumed we were all on the same page regarding the histories related to our being defined from without as well as from within.What alarms me even more is that these are comrades with whom we have spent almost a decade promoting Black Consciousness according to how we have read and understood it from the great activist Bantu Steve Biko. But today it appears as though we have not really understood Biko at all, or at least not the same way. This is not surprising, as Black Consciousness is neither a dogmatic doctrine nor a set of rules set in stone.
We can and have developed it and adapted it to many other progressive ideas of the 20th and 21st century, such as Black Existentialism, Afrikology, Intertextuality/Intersectionality, Black Feminism as well as Afro-Pessimism as developed by the likes of Frank B. Wilderson.
These and more are all part of the Black Radical tradition and form part of the a people’s movements towards liberation. But beyond scholarship, there have been global musical ideas and innovative artistic expressions based on the foundation of functional Black Consciousness.So what makes it different from Pan Afrikanism or even Afrikan Nationalism as advocated by our honourable predecessors from Garvey to Nkrumah to Nyerere,Cabral, Sankara, Toure’ and others?

Let’s begin by hypothetically accepting this geographically based definition,by agreeing that an Afrikan person no matter where she may be born or resides is still an Afrikan first, This means that all people of colour from the continent known as Africa, to the Brazilians, the Carribeans ( also known as West Indians), the Dominicans, some from South America as well as other parts of the Diaspora are to be identified as Afrikans first.
This definition is in spite of whether they personally identify as Afrikans of with the country of the birth, by virtue of being brown skinned or tan or as dark as ebony, they are African first.

But then there is a conundrum here, there are various peoples from all over the globe who appear dark skinned and yet they have not been in Afrika for several centuries. We can begin with the obvious Australian Aboriginals, New Zealanders, some peoples from the various Asian Islands, various so called Indians from that sub-continent as well as peoples from Mesopotamia and the Middle East who do not identify as Arabs, and some of those who do due to their religion. Are we saying that our Afrikan NAtionalism should exclude all these people even though they have suffered and continue to suffer the tribulations of anti-Black and racially based capitalist brutality?
Are we saying that only Afrikans in the continent are worth fighting and sacrificing for? Where does Afrikanness begin and end. I also need to know whether the knowledge based and technocratic economies of today …or rather can Afrikan Nationalism benefit the younger generation and assist them to become the best that they can be today? Is it a question of identity or is it really about loyalty and patriotism? If that is the case, does patriotism and loyalty to a continent progressively lead to social wellbeing or is it a question of being part of the nationalist ego?

The Freedom Trap

Is music the ultimate expression of human freedom? Having written so much about the music called jazz and the socio-political nuances it often carries, I do feel like I may be laboring the point just a bit, but each time I look through my old notes, I keep finding half-finished essays and quotations connected to this phenomenon.  The aim is to elaborate on the various ways in which Black peoples invention is misappropriated to their detriment, but I am also investigating how music and other art-forms are the spaces where possibilities for deeper intercultural communication can be articulated and convergence of humanity can be established. It is not an easy road towards harmony. But as we have heard and witnessed, music is a great equalizer, or is it really? Because what does it really mean to be equal, and when can the Black peoples of the world get their dues? As a cultural currency music is unmistakably translucent, anyone who has a heart can captivate us with song and even their understanding earned through learning or experience. Anyone who has a heart can feel and express it, so how come the racial stereotypes and abuse of power still persist?

A case in point is a quote attributed to Greg Thomas, dated February 6, 2012.

“Jazz, an art form given birth in the United States by descendants of the formerly enslaved has a complicated relationship with race. Although race as a popular idea has no basis in biology, many people mentally adhere to the idea of diving groups of people based on ‘race’ as opposed to understanding how groups of people evolve or regress, via culture, so very real social dynamics and results exist based on the belief in race. A key purpose of this column is to explore culture vs race as it manifests in the discourse of Jazz, historically and presently. “ – Find this and other articles on this subject here:

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/bam-or-jazz-part-two-by-greg-thomas.php

Another great and more detailed article is this one by Stanley Crouch, a veritable writer, jazz activist and critic.

https://www.vqronline.org/essay/stanley-crouch-our-black-american-mencken

I have chosen to highlight these two articles according to their merit and scope but I also deliberately chose two writers from the two ethnic backgrounds in question. The white man’s and the black man’s perspective gives a balanced understanding of what is at stake. Perhaps jazz like many forms of art born in the pervasive climate of racialized capitalism is as Bud Powell put it ‘A Dance Of The Infidels’ and we cannot remove it from its milieu, maybe then the best that one can do is enjoy it without visceral interrogation. But then the music itself kind of forces one to delve deeper than the sound. The creative impulse, themes and motivations of the musical creators compel us to Listen deeper, beyond basic enjoyment.

Elsewhere, writing about himself, Crouch states: ” He came into politics slowly, through art, as a child, he had posters of Dizzy Gillespie hanging everywhere, formed a jazz club in high-school and was an actor and director with the Watts Repertory Theater, in the wake of the Watts riots of 1965, he was caught up in the black nationalist movement, but he became a traitor to it later because he was bored with the militant strategies. The movement, he wrote, “helped send not only black America but his nation itslelf into an intellectual tailspin on the subjects of race, of culture, of heritage, where there was not outright foolishness, there was a mongering of the maudin and a base opportunism.” –

The above is taken from some of his essays in his first book, ‘Notes of a Hanging Judge“, (Oxford University Press, 1990), originally published in the Village Voice that same year.

So when will music and arts escape from the racial traps that have been constructed by capitalism and opportunism?