Burnt Porridge in the morning -Africana
A left over sweet potato with scorching hot tea you have to drink off a saucer as you rush to school. It is only when I moved to the UK that I realised Africa is a country, yes we have artificial borders but our experiences are the same. Whether you were Zimbabwean, Kenyan, Nigerian, Senegalese or even born in the West, there were certain similarities we all shared in background. Ugali/Mutsima/Sima/Posho/Kawunga/Mealies all the same food with little spice changes and variations. Of my generation, all our fathers were doing well in the 80’s then IMF pulled the plug on a continent, our notes all went from 100’s to 1,000’s and 10,000’s then 100,000’s. Then power-cuts, fetching water where we never did before, then bathing every 2 days, then wars, strife, chaos. That is how the best generation Africa had produced ended up in the menial jobs of the West. It was like looking at Earth from space, looking at Africa from the West leads you to see it monolithically. Our independence movements were started from the West, the first Pan-Africanist conference was held this week in Paris in 1919, out of this was born the independence movements when the activists returned. Africans had fought in WWI and their colonial masters were weak, but they tightened their grip and the West used it’s colonies in Africa to return to its feet. It always was and is a country to Westerners, our nations were provinces of the same systemic nation. However, the dream of the early Pan-Africans was also to make one nation, to speak with one voice, and to raise ourselves shoulder to shoulder.
It was a chilly Kigali morning with an air of glamour, to my left, the beautiful Kigali view, to my right was a tanned god of the screen. He was waiting for the wifi code, I passed him mine as I wasn’t using it “are you sure?” Yes I nodded, and then leaned back with a flair of nonchalance with a hint of disdain. In my head I was like “Oh my Gad, oh my Gad, you’re like totally the best actor ever, I loved your Good Will hunting script, I read it on paper 3 months before it came out. Oh my Gad, and you’re like married to Jennifer Garner, oh my Gad I totally like hate you dude.” Ben Affleck is now a “Africa Expert” as Congress has called him to testify and give expert advice on Congo. Madonna and Malawi, Bono and all Africa, Angelina Jolie and her UN work. Ben Affleck may care about Africa, he might even know a lot, but an expert he is not. He will be fed by certain people, he will cram the script given to him by Human Rights Watch and give anecdotal second-hand information by anonymous sources. Prejudices will be confirmed, fears will be justified, they will be awed and Africa will remain a country. When I arrived in UK, I knew all the Kings and Queens, Chancellors and Prime Ministers going back to 1066. I knew their history better than most, but they hardly cared who William The Conqueror was, and even less his exploits. I am a Europe expert, when Africans have a question on UK, they come to me. I met a professor of African Studies who had never been to Africa, African studies is different to Africa, it is merely a study of studies of Africa.
There is a breed of people that disgust me, so-called “Afropolitans” or variations of. What does that mean anyway? They will say “I’m an African who is cosmopolitan.” The concept of ‘Africa Rising’ came out of a study by The Economist Magazine in 2000 which predicted a decade of growth based on commodities. This concept was jumped on by Africans in the Diaspora linking online with Africans back home. This corruption of Africana – the common cultural background we have, has mixed with many more Western influences to create a culture that is homogenous and foreign, unlike the homogenous and native Africana – a synthesis of all that is commonly shared. Some just bootleg this Africana concept, sew some African cloth on Levi Jeans and bang! You are now an African designer. We can only be Africans, nothing more, we want to connect with each other not to Europe. We forsake our very own artefacts for western goods, we took the rough with the smooth – Western Liberal Capitalism + Western Liberal values. Now we are confused, liberal western democracy causes political breakdown, liberal values cause social breakdown of traditional African values and family structures. So anti-gay laws and being passed, miniskirts are being banned, decadent western behaviour is fought at all costs. This is all because our social change is moving too fast, so they attempt to legislate to regulate that change.
When Neil Armstrong stood on the moon, he cried with emotion, not because of the moon but the Earth was so small. It was like a tiny blue ball in the distance, he realised this planet is so fragile out there in a sea of endless space. Likewise I kept a map of Africa on my wall every day I was in the West, and I would see Africa as a whole, without the wounds and scars of cut-up borders. I saw the holistic view of a continent, racked by the same problems, joined by a collective but diverse set of cultures, exploited by the same colonisersBob Marley sang “Africa Unite – coz your children wanna go home.” Imagine a highway drive from Dakar to Djibouti, or Capetown to Cairo? Crossing borders as you wish with your skin as your passport, welcome brother, welcome. I know this is absurd, but when the Americans started their dream in 1776, they cannot have envisioned their current glory. America benefits from being an integrated economy with free movement of goods and labour. Integration is the key to our dream of self-reliance, no man is an island, inter-dependence is the only way. Next time an ignorant Westerner calls Africa a country, don’t correct them, it is our dream and target. “Hey are you from Africa? What language do you speak in Africa? Do you speak African? What’s that guy on TV saying” Yes I am from Africa, I speak African wubuubulubbubbubbu! There are benefits in seeing ourselves as African, we can be accountable to each other and stop killing each other, white people made a deal to stop killing each other after WWII, we need the same. There is only one Africa.