In consideration of “African” art and its histories

A culture that is rich and vibrant but one also drenched in humility. All our intricacies — everything we have endured and are still are enduring — without even knowing it, has formed the foundation of what we are becoming. Our history has manifested our art, music, food and even – some would argue – our personalities as African people. The notion of god save Africa is not born from nothing, it is uttered from a knowing so deep of the fact that our far spanning and diverse continent has been bound, exploited and brutalised for centuries in counting now. “Discoverers discovered” and Africa and her people were frozen within the objectifying sentence of colonial white supremacy and Empire. Only to face a second betrayal at the hands of neo-paternalistic African leaders, who simply replaced the old colonisers at the table that carved up the continent; these were not the Beautyful Ones for whom we had waited. With new generations, our voices are becoming stronger and louder, our art is evolving through inspired innovation and our cultures are being circulated and looked to for creative inspiration the world over.

exhibition by Musonda Kabwe

Perhaps, I am alone in my feelings that as a people and continent of diverse histories and cultures — although always lumped into one monolithic conglomerate; least we forget Africa is not a country —we were always made to feel embarrassed about our pasts and heritages by the global North, whether in overt or covert ways and by virtue of its homogenising power. Every country in Africa is held apart by that, or those that it has been exploited by. Who carved up those frivolous borders that now separate and name us. Some would argue that the foundation of art coming out of Africa is built from our history. Since the beginning of time indigenous people have told their stories through art using materials that come from the earth, stories that are enriched with spirituality and mystical beliefs. I spoke to Musonda Kabwe, artist and designer born in Zambia and raised in Johannesburg. Mus’s art is an amalgamation of two worlds; he uses traditional aspects which are rooted in a very particular cultural experience coming out of the continent and translates them into the contemporary creative world. “Think of African art as a diamond, it reflects one thing in a number of different sides and ways”, he explained as he compared African art to the monotheistic, simplicity of European art often inspired by capitalism.

While our continent’s historical encounter with colonialism still lives on in the socio-political, socio-cultural and economic ecologies of African states, the possibilities and space for innovate imagination where our art and creative futures are concerned — like the continent and its people — are limitless.

The Lourve

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