Africa must embrace the creative arts to experience its rebirth.
It has taken me almost a week to think about my first post partly due to developing habit of writing, editing and re-editing in the hope of coming up with a perfect script. I put this blame on my high school sweetheart. She had perfected both spoken and written English and it would have been such a shame if my response to her perfectly written love letter contained numerous grammatical errors. That would have been the end of our love story. She was perfect and she sought perfection. Ever since then, I too started seeking perfection especially in writing. However, with time I have realized that we live in an imperfect world and as such, we can strive for perfection but we can never attain perfection.
“I decided that I’ll make a summary of this new initiative, what inspired it and what it seeks to achieve”
Most of us by now have come across the video “This is America” by American musician Donald Glover (Childish Gambino). I remember the first time I watched it, I was absolutely stunned. It is breath-taking not only in how he is able to address key issues facing America mainly gun violence in four minutes and five seconds but in the manner in which he did. The Nigerian version, “This is Nigeria” by renowned rapper Falz is also quite interesting as we, Kenya, share the same problems such as corruption, police brutality and unemployment with them. Take your time and also watch the video “Spirit” by South African rapper Kwesta featuring American rapper Wale, if you haven’t already. The song urges South Africans to be united despite the many challenges they have faced since the end of apartheid era. How he has used images to capture South African history and the challenges they have gone through over the years is incredible; that is what is referred to as Art in Motion. Critics will argue there won’t be any visible effect on our lives, it’s just a music video, we will watch it, it trends, and we talk about it until a new shiny video pops up. The fact that it elicits thought amongst us as we try to decipher the various symbols and scenes in the video(s) is a good thing by itself. Let us go back in time to an important historical period known as the “Renaissance” period. This was the transitional period between the Middle Ages whereby all aspects of human life were guided by religious doctrines and teachings; and the Age of Enlightenment whereby man started using reason and separated the role of religion, philosophy and science in human life.
“The application of reasoning led man to question everything about him that ranged from the formation of the universe, to how he/she is governed, to the fairness of the laws that govern him.”
The Age of Reason not only influenced the Scientific Revolution but also directly influenced the French and American Revolutions which were key milestones in the spread of democracy. What led to this sudden change in how human beings view and live their lives? The exploration and the discovery of new continents which led to the European people acquiring new knowledge from other societies, especially Asia, on various aspects of human life; this was accompanied by paintings of the beautiful new lands that people had come across overseas. The invention of the printing press meant that a lot of manuscripts on Greek and Ancient Roman philosophy and history were widely read and people became more and more interested in reviving their ancient traditions and culture as well as apply the doctrines of classical Greek philosophers. One cannot speak of the “Renaissance” or “Re-birth” period and not mention Leonardo Da Vinci and Michael Angelo, two of the greatest artists to have graced this planet. Most of these painters had interest in Science and used their paintings as a means of imparting knowledge on the population on various new scientific discoveries. Music, art, literature and sculptures have been attributed as the main factors that influenced the re-birth of Europe as they were the means that new knowledge on educational and cultural matters was imparted on the larger population. It all began with a change of thought, and this change of thought, the questions on simple matters regarding each and every aspect of their lives led to a period of immense innovation and social and political development.
Talanta Manufaa appreciates the immense power of the arts especially with the growth of digital communication. We seek to change the way the creative arts are perceived to be a “hobby” or “mere entertainment” despite the fact historically and presently there is wide-spread evidence of the power of art in social change. We want to build an African community that appreciates talent and the power of creativity and thus formulate laws and create governance structures that enhance creativity; a community where young people are encouraged to be creative and exploit their talents rather than be robots to a system created to suppress their creativity. We will tell stories of people who are continually using their talents and creativity to impact society in a positive way. We envision a creative community that will not only tell authentic Kenyan and African stories but one that will continually pose questions in our minds. A creative community that will continually evoke thought in us on key issues such as negative ethnicity, corruption, gender equality, poor leadership, loss of important cultural values and traditions amongst other emerging issues. We envision that through our efforts, in a similar manner that creative artists influenced the “Renaissance” period in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, we will influence a re-birth of our society.