Words by Lerato Mokone
For most of the 20th century, Africa had been embarking on a heroic journey. Its inhabitants sought to escape the relentless shackles of European Imperialism, straight into a new world order. This would mark the emergence of a rather distorted view of Africa as an emancipated and independent state. The estimated journey time into said emancipation and independence was short-lived as it only took 50 years. This was commendable on our part because some states took centuries and others, even thousands of years to successfully execute this.
Our biggest challenge is that we often tend to speak of the independence and emancipation of African states in a distorted manner. It is worth it to note that African states, from the time of their inception, were in conflict with people and states who had been training to master the art of war for many years prior to that. In addition, these states were equipped with the best weapons and occupied more technologically advanced territories. In response, the natural and unavoidable question which we were then posed with was: ‘How could we challenge the masters of the war and their methods to change the world?' In essence, what was the first step we needed to take towards our renaissance?
Our remarkable shift and adaptation into the 21st century accounts for the answer to this. The spirit of our continent thrives mightily on creativity as a result of culturing, catapulting and exhibiting the concept of diversification to the rest of the world. In exploring some young and old African mavericks within their respective creative industries, we can better articulate how and why Africa matters to the world.
The world of African literature can never be complete without, at the very least, the slight mention of 41-year old and Nigerian born novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her imagination leads the way for the enduring commitment she has to telling stories that rigorously articulate the African human condition on a political, social and economic scale. Her ability to understand and communicate such a narrative is portrayed in several of her works of art such as: ‘Americanah’; ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and ‘We should all be Feminists’, to mention but a few.
Contemporary Art: Benin; RSA
Artists within this vibrant industry have contributed significantly to shifting the African culture. We celebrate Benin born Meschac Gaba for the success of his inaugural traveling museum (Museum of Contemporary African Art); which investigates and addresses issues of cultural identity as well as systems of trade between Africa and the West. His means of expression vary from paintings and ceramics to multimedia.
Africa has also produced its very own Ndebele Picasso – South Africa’s treasure, Dr. Esther Mahlangu. Using very colorful and geometric patterns of the Ndebele tribe, Mam’Esther has both influenced and innovated this creative industry. Creating the first ‘African Art car’ in collaboration with BMW is one of the many international accolades she has earned for herself. In addition to this, she was also honored by the University of Johannesburg as a cultural entrepreneur and educator - skilled with the natural ability of global negotiation.
Film and Television: Nigeria
The Nollywood industry currently ranks in as Nigeria’s second largest employer which makes the potential of Africa to advance at an economic level through job creation and national pride more prominent. It has successfully created over a million jobs and manages to profit an approximate $500m annually.
Fashion: RSA; Kenya; Ghana
Africa is arguably the hotbed of style. From the intricately detailed Quiteria & George whimsical gown worn by Beyoncé, to the vibrant streets of Kenya where Mohamed Awale introduces ‘Suave’ - a brand that transforms waste into conventional clothing items. We can also travel to the borders of Ghana, where Akosua Afriyie-Kumi would feature as she handcrafts luxury handbags for the modern, everyday woman. In a nutshell, Africa is on a constant fashion high. With the accessibility created by multimedia channels, there is a global demand for our talent.
Music: RSA; Ghana; Kenya; Senegal
The African music industry is not only comprised of geniuses as our musicians can also be easily recognized as team-players who have used their influence to positively and effectively impact the lives of upcoming artists. The list of our musical trailblazers is endless but includes DJ Black Coffee; Sarkodie; Sauti-Sol and Akon.
‘Why the world appreciates us’
While the rest of the world was busy gathering the treasures of the earth, we focused on gathering the treasures of our continent. Over the years we have callously and successfully positioned ourselves as a global center for the creative arts. African creatives do not create with an agenda to monetize first. The goods we produce attract all kinds of people. It is this authenticity, rawness and purity that continues to market itself for the advancement of our economy.