The Bold , Young African.
A lot of young Africans will tell you …… thinking about a career as a creative is so far-fetched, you’re obviously on something if you do.
A creative can be sometimes thought of as someone who is at the end of their rope and has nothing else to do so they might as well become an artist. Or writer.
‘Are you mad? Is that writing going to feed your family?’ * Ba Shikulu or Baba accent here*
These are valid questions.
Our parents lived at a time when the only way you could earn a steady income was to be a lawyer, teacher, nurse or Doctor. There was also immeasurable pride at having attained such a status. You were a part of the ‘apamwamba’ — the upper class. This is still somewhat true today. If you want a steady income in a vibrant city like Lusaka where I am from, you have to be an accountant, work in a company or ‘tamanga or makwebo’ — work all sorts of entrepreneurial magic.
What is being pushed to the sidelines is the creative side that a lot of young Africans have that they do not pursue because frankly, what is the use?
Even if I love to paint, or create something fun out of recyclable materials what does it matter? All the ‘artists’ I know sell their ware at the Sunday Market at arcades (popular shopping mall in Lusaka) and are barely getting by. They are also regarded as somewhat lazy, why are they doing this? If they would have done well at school surely they would have steady jobs right?
Writing? Why should I do that? Who is going to publish my work? Will I see a cent of any money if I do get published?Who cares about my story anyway?
Designing clothes? Contemporary African art? Who will recognize me on the continent?
A lot of young African contemporary artists venture to the Nordics, where they are recognised and given funding to continue working on their art. Some eventually stay there, but with the sadness and fire for Africa burning inside them, saddened that someone else other than their own recognise, appreciate and buy their work.
How can we tell Young African people that even as they work hard towards getting that law degree, it's okay to keep sketching? That it's okay to keep writing? That we need them to keep the artistic creative fire burning. That it is imperative that they do?
Yes, you. Young African. Your creativity matters. We want your stories, your sculptures, your crazy dancing.We need it because it reminds us of who we are. Young vibrant Africans with a knack for turning everything into a good time.
Will what you create make you a lot of money? Maybe it will, maybe it won't.
Do you think that Ba Achebe knew he would be as famous as he was? Do you know Ba wa Thiongo has a B.A from Makerere University but buckled down and wrote instead of resigning to teaching only?
Awe bakamba (read: nah son ), keep at it. You are a bridge, from where we are now to the future where African artists no longer have to venture to cold countries to keep creating.
In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams. ~ Nigerian proverb
Here’s to you. Bold Young African.
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. — HENRY MILLER”
― Todd Henry, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day