About two months ago I went back home for one of the most blessed thing that has happened this year; my brother’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony which I shared with close family and was so grateful to be a part of. I was in Uganda for two glorious weeks of sun, traditional food, laughter with family and friend’s. To sum it up, I did not want to leave however reality called. When I got back I had so much to write about from my experience but still haven’t done so due to work hours and having to move yet again. However, I did put up a post on Instgram which I found to have been a relevant observation when I was back home. The post I shared is below.
And my cation underneath this instagram post was what I had observed when I was waiting to board my flight from Uganda to England. This is what it said;
Yesterday during my 3 hour wait to board my flight, I went through Entebbe, Uganda’s duty free. I noticed three things,
1. The airport has done a lot of reconstructs since my last visit back home.
2. I would rather a bookstore to a chocolate store anytime.
3. The prices of the books could very easily buy me a Meal for two at one of Uganda’s very best restaurant.
Anyway as I perused through the bookstore, it came to my attention that there was a lot of African literature (typical given it is a bookshop at an African airport) but that was not what caught me off guard. It came to my attention that almost each and every African literature Book I picked up was written by a foreign man, which made me question a lot of things. Yes, all the writers might be more educated than the African man who went through the wars himself, but does that make it right? For the writer to claim a story and profit off another man’s blood and sweat. Which got me asking myself, why we African’s haven’t got the balls to tell our own stories? Why we have not educated our kids and encouraged them to tell our stories, to write. Instead when your sons and daughters comes to you and tells you they want to become writers, you rubbish the idea and force them into medicine. I for one have witnessed this first hand. No wonder, the foreign man has traveled far, come to your grandfather’s hut in the small village he resides, spent two months with him; listening to his war stories and shared his latrines and food, only to come out with the best seller a year from then. Let’s take back our power to tell our own stories.”
I had a lot of comments from friends with all different views and questions which I always love. Constructive criticism is always welcome. I also had a friend who after reading my post thought the content of the poem I posted was a little sensitive as it talked about slavery and she didn’t think it was a relevant to the topic at hand. She went on and asked me why I had to bring in slavery as it was a cruel act that was carried out well before our time. I felt that maybe she had misunderstood the message behind it all hence why I felt this instagram post needed a follow up.
First off I would like to point out that slavery was real. It does not matter that it happened tens and tens of years ago; it was a cruel and inhuman act. A lot was taken from the continent that is Africa; apart fro the human beings of course, Africa was also stripped of their art. When you go to well known museums you will at least find one African artifact, this has become a well known fact. The main focus of this post was to shade light on the fact that African’s do not take artistry seriously, and if they do not someone else will (this being the foreign man that comes in and documents the series of events that have happened or are happening at that point in time; hereby making it his/her story and no-longer ours).
Evidence of this comes as feedback from one of my long term friend from Uganda. After he had read my post he went on to ask me if I was the one that came up with it. If I was the one who wrote this one post or any or my numerous poems all together. I would like to think that him asking me that was his way of saying that he enjoyed reading my post and thought there was a solid point being put across in my post but honestly it only proved my point even more. This particular friend and I went to the same schools growing up. Even though he was born and raised in the UK until about ten years old, I believe we had the same background academically, so why was he so taken back by the above instagram post I put up?
As an African, I have grown up hearing relatives, mentors and teachers tell me what I should focus on as a career option since I was young. When I was seven I wanted to sing, and when I told my class teacher this she thought it to be cute. She smiled and told me I was not sure of what I wanted to take on as a career yet and that maybe I could be a teacher like her. Later on that seed was planted, so when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them a teacher because then they would not laugh at me when I said I wanted to be like Britney Spears. I did change from teach to engineer (that was only because I loved putting things apart and fixing them), from engineer to Doctor, from doctor to lawyer and during all this time I loved art; I loved fashion and music and literature. I always thought reading was a hobby, something I liked doing when my sisters watched tv and I loved arts and craft; I thought that too was just another class added to my curriculum for that year. Africans have never thought to take these artistic “hobbies” as a serious career path. But happens is this leaves room for foreigners with artistic views to come in and fill the artistic gap that we as African’s leave empty. That is why you see the successful African biographies of some our well know political, religious or traditional leaders are written or film documented by a foreign man who found that there is a serious niche for this kind of market in Africa because all the kids are trying to be doctors and lawyers (not that there is anything wrong with that). Only that the problem with is the fact that most African’s do not take writing, painting, singing or filming seriously. African Parents are all pushing their children to be doctors and lawyers, they do not take art, poetry or screen writing as an important career choice. What we as African’s are doing is we are pushing the next generations to pick careers that are considered “concrete”, things that can be tested and assessed. Most African kindergartens, Primary schools, colleges and universities do not nurture artists; learners that are creative, innovative or idealistic developers. They have put our generation and the next generation and the one after that in a small, narrow box. Limiting the possibility of their creativity, not knowing that that is a major aspect in all if not most career paths i.e IT, business and even medicine.
‘Painting outside the line‘ has been a line used by many philosophers, motivational speakers and writers. This one statement basically sums up my childhood; growing up I loved coloring, and being a kid you color any and everything; this being you color outside of the box/ picture. And this is a fun, unconscious act which shows the adventurous and creative side of a child before he/she goes on to school and is told that drawing outside the lines is wrong hereby confining their creative side and putting them in a box. I came to a realization that Africa as a country is not yet at the point of nurturing it’s creative and artistic side and only leaves the foreign man to tell OUR stories and of graduates are doctors hereby reducing their value/pay (story for another time). it is all really messy and very uncalculated. I call on Africa; parents, teachers, mentors and career guiders we need to regroup; we need to stop giving into conformity and think about the creative side. If not for us, for the generation after us and the one after that one too.