The advances of technology in recent years have given diverse communities of African descent the agency to express truths that would not have been acknowledged in the past. There are still occasions when the popular culture has been infused with the ideas of those who would like to imagine Africa and Africans in ways that feel at odds with reality, such as the much hyped Afro-Futurist film versions of Marvel comics, but there are fewer of these artefacts than there used to be.
Is it healthy that there are now more opportunities than ever before to look into the vast range of African subcultures for insights that could enrich the cultural landscape? The answer to this question should be in the affirmative.
I have personally felt restricted in the past by the notions that a lot of folks carry in their minds about what I should or should not be expressing. Those of us who have had to grapple with the perceptions of people looking in from other backgrounds have a job to do, apart from being honest in our work. It has something to do with removing the filters that we have placed in front of ourselves in our efforts to make our products accessible.
In some ways, we are living in times of exciting potential. We have the tools available to “reach out and touch” others as our real selves. Obviously there will be pockets of retrogressive activity and it is going to take a long time before the penny drops for everyone that no one has to compromise his or her own integrity as an artist.
Back in the day, I remember my composition tutor saying “I wouldn’t pander”. On the other hand, he would argue with me about my choice of Yoruba proverbs to be used as part of the libretto of a sung text that I was composing. There was a fog that people like me had to forge our paths through, just to be open in our expression. Now is the time to seize the bull by the horns. It is a time for making brave choices.