November 17, 2018


What makes us African?


lehlohonolo-nyetanyane“Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, it is a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist utopia. It is what you wish and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny one. To a lot of people as to myself, it is just home. It is all these things but, one thing- it is never dull.” British-Kenyan aviator and poet Meryl Markham couldn’t have depicted Africa any better.

On 25 May 1963, 32 independent African states converged in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to establish Organisation of African Unity. The day has since been commemorated across the continent as Africa Day and is a public holiday in some African countries like Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Situated south of the Mediterranean Sea, Africa is home to an estimated 1.2bn inhabitants. Archipelagos located on both the eastern and western coastlines, give Africa her unique cosmetic look.
She provides ample freedom for buffalos, elephants, lions, leopards and rhinoceroses to bellow, trumpet and roar at liberty. Her children are conspicuous by their high melanin content and tall stature. Their hearts profusely ooze with camaraderie even to those who mean no peace.

Though battered and bruised by imperialists since time immemorial, Africa’s children harbour no grudges. Their grin is never laden with abomination. They are renowned as the needy who are ready to give everything. What you see with Africans is what you get. This is what gives me great pride to call them my people.

I have resisted temptation to pay attention to social malaise like hunger, disease and war that are a common feature of the African narrative from Cape to Cairo. I choose to highlight abundant harvest in Côte d’ Ivoire, tea and tobacco plantations in Zambia and the misty view of the Victoria Falls, with Mt Kilimanjaro towering above everything else.

Africa is home to Table Mountain which is one of the Seven Wonders of Nature. It overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island giving a panoramic view which Meryl Markham describes as photographer’s paradise.

Lesotho is a perennial fountain of water to Africa’s fertile soil. Africa’s belly is a confluence of symbiosis between nature and humanity. Africa is an open theatre where nature complements humanity.

Africa has given birth to prolific authors like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Eskia Mphahlele and Léopold Sédar Senghor. In Africa’s womb, intellectual thinkers like Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Jomo Kenyatta, Amilcar Cabral and Robert Sobukwe were conceived.

Africa has proven herself as the centre of ancient wisdom, the Timbuktu manuscripts being just but one example. In the same breath, the Egyptian pyramids and hieroglyphics bear testimony that Africans are masters of tectonic-architecture and written communication respectively. Needless to say, we are not as dull as the world wants us to believe.

You and I share the same genes as Ghanaian and Liberian men and women who were snatched from the coastline to work as slaves in American sugar plantations.

These are our people who were deemed productive labour force while working for no pay as slaves but, branded a bunch of lazy Negros when they finally stood up and demanded compensation for their toil.

We are descendants of the 607 soldiers who died in the English Channel when the SS Mendi sank en route to La Havre in France to do battle in a war they knew nothing about. We are a nation that stood resolute in fighting against American slavery and Anglo-Franco imperialism.

I will not spoil my afro-jovial mood by remembering Afro-Jihadist syndicates like Boko Haram and El Shabaab. I won’t be drawn into the state of our beleaguered African econo-politics that has turned mother Africa into a welfare recipient.

Neither shall I make much ado about Africa’s president-for-life phenomenon. At times like these – it’s not worth mentioning that English and French are widely spoken foreign languages in Africa.
I would rather indulge in rare excellence of musical aficionados like Zimbabwean singer/songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi, Malian vocalist Salif Keita, Senegalese percussionist Youssou N’dour and South Africa’s Grammy Award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Mabawuyeke umhlaba wethu, Izweluthu – iAfrica.

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