On Africa and Creativity

As one who advocates a forward thinking mindset, I hate it when I have to make references to the past but sometimes, there is no other way. Colonialism, in my opinion, is the vampire’s fang that’s sucked and continues to suck Africa’s creative brain out; leaving us for dead, dry and uninventive. Yet it still is Africa’s responsibility to wring itself free. In the history of humanity, no one race has ever fought for another’s redemption. Often, there is the pretending to do so in order to gain favour or to steal but every nation, every tribe, every family, every man, every woman is responsible to themselves for their own redemption.

Everyday, I hear of one new person picking up the camera, believing they have a calling and almost immediately they start collecting money from both the vulnerable and the cheap in return for badly packaged, terribly arranged pixels of s%i$. They have no creative integrity or pride. There is nothing as scary in this world, as one who cannot feel shame. Before you think this phenomenon is only with photography, I’d beg you to take a quick glance at our music, our art, our radio and tv programming, our education. WHAT HAPPENED TO ORIGINALITY? WHAT HAPPENED TO CREATIVITY?

Aristotle says human beings learn by imitation and I totally agree but creativity is a higher calling. It is a call to stand out and be counted. It is a call to leadership and that is why, if anyone believes they’ve been called by their Creator to be creators, they cannot settle for becoming like their neighbour, friend or even master. There comes a time when an Ephraim Amu closes the hymn books and creates his own music. There comes a time when an Ama Ata Aidoo flips her Shakespeare’s somewhere and takes ownership of her experiences and her observations. There comes a time when all creatives come into their own; if they really are creatives.

We, the victims of colonialist systems, inherited Rote Learning among many other curses; and its negative effects still plague us. I still see today, forty plus old men and women who are educated well to obey but hold no ability to lead, to break out of the box, to think for themselves. I live in a country where a pharmacist’s biggest ambition is not to discover and create his own medicines but rather to be the reseller or representative of some Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline. I live in a country where an engineers ultimate desire is not to place himself or his children on the moon or even on a map but rather to earn a certificate, a salary and a 4 x 4.

Creativity begins when we realize that Education, no matter how good it is. Education, whether acquired at Akotolante L.A. Primary or Harvard, is never an end in itself. Education will always be a means to an end. We educate soldiers on how to use weapons so they can win wars. We educate the hunter on how to set a trap so he can catch game. The lawyer who is incompetent enough to let the innocent they represent be condemned and watch the guilty walk out to again run the world down, has not only failed all who taught her but also immensely failed themselves as human beings with an ability to think.

For the young who are still trying to find their way. I will say, ask yourself, what kind of education do I need to achieve that goal and not what programme can I get a scholarship for, or what qualification can I easily get a job with?

In spite of all the pessimism poured out above, I am the first to confess that I see streaks of brilliance and hope everyday; only I wish it will get broader and ultimately canvass our continent and our world; and for that, I can’t wait.

Go out and Create.


Nyani said…
This is a brilliant piece, Nana Kofi. Tell it how it is.
Anonymous said…
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leyem said…
This is our harsh reality, but sometimes we need a person or two to remind us of it and to get us to think outside the box, to give us a swift kick in the %#! so as to achieve greater. Africans have so much potential, but what we lack is confidence in ourselves and the courage to support our fellow creative brothers and sisters knowing that their creativity and their success benefits us all collectively. Thank you for this commentary.

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