I have been asking myself this question and its really not easy to come up with a straight answer because you will have the South Africans telling Nigerians and Zimbabweans they are ‘stealing’ work from them, the Zimbabweans arguing whether it should be a Shona or Ndebele, the Nigerians also arguing whether it should be someone from Yoruba , Igbo or Hausa- Fulani tribes. The Somalians in the other corner arguing amongst themselves but also agreeing it should never be an Ethiopian.
You see we have been enemies of our own development for too long. Our own enemies of progress.
Maybe that was a bit intense, let me tell you a funny story, it’s about one of my most favorite things, football.
I thought i was really crazy about football, or “the beautiful game” until I heard about Alvin or Alluvah as most Zimbabweans like to call him.
Early this year Alvin decided to do something we all thought was insane. He wanted to watch the Zimbabwe national football team, “Warriors” at the African Cup of Nations in Cairo, Egypt. Well, since he couldn’t afford a plane ticket, being the relentless person he is, he decided to hitchhike from Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe to Cairo, Egypt. To cut a long story short, he achieved this but unfortunately for Alvin, he arrived in Cairo long after Zimbabwe had been disqualified and already back in Harare.
His story naturally got a lot of media attention, people wanted to know this crazy football fan from Zimbabwe who had hitchhiked for almost 10 000 kilometers. They asked him what the biggest take-away from his journey was and he said, “There are so many travel barriers, I might have learnt that Africa is not for Africans.”
Think about that.
Our “motherland” as we famously like to call it, is such a poor mother she fails to care for her children or have we ourselves created an environment so toxic, none of her offspring can truly flourish.
What makes us hate everything about ourselves yet we expect others to love us?
We have been socialised to hate everything about our culture,history,religion, skin, hair, our collective idea of beauty is deeply flawed, we have inherited trauma and still pass it on.
And it doesn’t help that when you walk into many Western art galleries today, you see paintings that ignore our stories. We have to re-possess our own narrative.
We need to tell our own stories, we need to be proud of our languages. Kill a language and you have killed a culture. Let us not continue to be colonized through cultural appropriation.
It’s time our stories are heard, i know from as far as the 1980’s many people have stood in front of an audience like this, maybe even bigger, saying the same words, maybe even better, but this time we need to act. It’s time to turn sentiment into action.
I am not saying we should romanticize Africa, we just need to tell stories that are honest and balanced while we wrestle with the struggles of our past but also speak about advancements and diversities of our present.
You know in the year 2000 we were labelled the “Hopeless Continent”, and 11 years later in 2011, the same publication labelled us “Africa Rising.”
Funny thing is we didn’t come up with those narratives. When you don’t have a voice, a united voice, people will speak up for you.
Yes we may have achieved independence from our colonial masters but instead of uniting us, it seems we have been independent from ourselves. We need to work together for freedom of travel, free trade and who knows maybe one day we will have a single currency.
Anyway, I am not here to talk about the politics or the economics, we want to focus on the more exciting things, art, literature and culture.
Although at the same time, we must accept we cannot separate economic development from culture. Our ancestors are part of who we are. We have to establish progressive alliances rooted in African indigenous culture to promote intra-African trade.
It is also the duty of every generation, in relative obscurity, to discover its mission, fulfill its mission, or betray it. We need to fulfill our mission as a generation, let us decolonize ourselves so the future generations can build, what we can not.
The only way is to take back our shared values and shared heritage and identity. In addition to finding those binding values we need to fight the misconceptions amidst ourselves. Lets change sentiment to strategy.
Our future is in our hands, let us please fulfill our mission of reclaiming our shared heritage, reviving those bonding values and reshaping the narrative for ourselves and those to come.
Betray it, and we will forever be drawers of water for other civilizations.