By David G Maillu
“Love Brewed in African Pot,” was a heart captivating and successful African film produced in Ghana some decades ago. It was shown in Kenya and Kenyans loved it because they identified with it squarely. I fell in love with the film.
Although one can claim that Love Brewed in African Pot’s success was in the contents, one should not overlook the awfully striking name it was given in the promotion of the African philosophy of love. It was a title which would appeal to non-African consumers, given the fact that people get curious about foreign cultures. Eventually the film disappeared in the African social forest. I wonder whether you can get it in CD today.
From the cultural angle, the film promoted African integrity. Credits should also be given to African musicians because of their aggressive promotion of African culture. I have never heard of a musicians singing about the other four continents. But there are many songs composed and sung about Africa. Such contributions give Africa a special psychological healing from its damaged image by foreign forces led by slave trade and subsequent colonialism. Indeed, Africa has the history of having received the worst beating from outsiders. The one million-dollar question is why?
Focusing on literature contribution, post-colonial states have seen the sudden rise of creative writers. The top leading writer in the promotion of African values is the late Chinua Achebe. He delivered that promotion by Things Fall Apart in which African readers culturally identify themselves appreciably with the characters. The work was pioneer creative work crying out loudly, “The African is someone of substance.” Okotp’Bitek’s Song of Lawino contributed heavily to that claim too. So did Ngugi’s The River Between.
Get a sample of the traditional evaluation of the African from white PW Botha of the Apartheid South Africa whose though was published in the statement, “By now every one of us has seen it practically that the Blacks cannot rule themselves. Give them guns and they will kill each other. They are good in nothing else but making noise, dancing, marrying many wives and indulging in sex. Let us all accept that the Blackman is a symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence. Isn’t it plausible?”
Writing in his book The Black Man’s Burden about “Africa without History” the most committed promoter of African values, white man Basil Davidson gives a glimpse illustration of the African fate during the Slave Trade by saying, “They came ashore in nakedness and hunger, but were lucky to be alive. The months before has been a living nightmare; for many now the deliverance from the nightmare would be brief prelude to death itself. The slave trade had become to kill them; disease would finish the job. And whatever the survivors would then remember could be only a series of ragged and traumatic sufferings… Once they were aboard the ship for the Americas their misery became worse.”
This brings me back to my claim that the above mentioned pioneer writers were creative writers of difference primarily. They gave their approach dynamic ideological angle in attempting to reclaim African dignity from the psychologically damaged background where, for virtually centuries, the worst atrocities were employed by the Whiteman to dehumanize the African. Recently a white man fired me by saying, “Africans have been independent for years.” He became sarcastic and cried, Professor, surely by now you Africans must have been healed psychologically.” I let him go with the echo, “Professor, it is naïve of you to think that such damage must have come to an end with the arrival of self-rule in African states. Psychological damages of that magnitude need special treatment and take ages to be healed.”
In the process of healing, that was why Love Brewed in African Pot was a tremendous home-made psychological herb. Africa is not yet out of the wood. It is still in the healing process. To fasten the healing, Africa needs much more creative writing, counseling and creative thinking. At this stage, people who sold Africans as slaves and subsequently colonized them, stand at the crossroad armed with the most powerful media houses and economic might. The African skin doesn’t look right out there.
It is the African to aggressively spearhead African renaissance. Unfortunately, that aggression is not the menu of most of us. It is human nature to get used to anything. Even poverty. It looks that the African is used to playing a secondary role. Most upcoming African writers have no consideration for the rehabilitating ideology I am talking about. In given time, I am afraid, people writing with pride in African values may become as rare as virgins.
Ask many young writers anything about African values and they are likely to hit back, “What are they?” In the new works there is less effort in culturally oriented creative rediscovery of the African. Most writers go for commercial creativity, leaving the psychologically half-healed consumer still in the wilderness.
This is the critical entry-point of the African government in designing and encouraging cultural policies to help in the healing. One of the healing instruments is developing of reading culture. Very few African governments take any pride in upholding their integrity; hence, making Africans prey to agents from Europe to America, from America to Asia, who are religiously proud of their cultural heritage. That is the heritage which gives creative persons foundation for their works which, accurately examined, stand out proudly in appreciation and promotion of their values.
The irony is that there is a wave in the air saying that there is not anything in African culture for Africans to be proud of. If there is nothing, therefore, we should feel justified in importing cultures.
Yet, what our pioneer writers have left immense challenges saying, “Yes, the African is someone with substance.” Those challenges call for more and more novels brewed on African pot. Things fell apart in Africa culturally and we have little with which to the psychologically wounded, “Weep not child.”
The only hope left for salvaging African integrity is in the hands of writers and artists. Like birds and wild life, works of writers and artists defy ethnic and racial boundaries. The challenge is that the African and the African Race has the capacity of engaging his mental scope so that one day the African will have decolonized himself fully and created his own paradise that he can be religiously proud of. For what would the African be worth if he lost the foundation of his heritage and gained the world?