There was a time when I wondered if the art scene of peoples of African heritage would survive in the UK. Looking around me now, I can see that my misgivings were unfounded – there are many arts practitioners out there in a wide range of genres and art forms, expressing ideas, thoughts and feelings from diverse African communities. In some ways, the scene is healthier than it used to be, inasmuch as the representation of specific world views is more prevalent than was the case in my younger years.
What about the intergenerational sharing of skills and passing on of traditions? In some cases there are sightings of this approach, but perhaps there is more that can be done. It is understandable that younger artists want to find themselves and might be wary of involving more mature practitioners in their creative processes, in order to feel free to make choices that suit them, but there is no area of cultural activity that doesn’t benefit from a healthy coming together of different generations in the development of the work.
Digressing slightly from the African focus, I remember being told that some successful Black British recording artistes of the late 1990s and early noughties ran into problems in European countries when they went on tour, possibly because they never received any mentoring from artists of the previous generation.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with some of the successful names of today. Circumstances are obviously different. Maybe there are teams to support the artists who are more emotionally committed to the overall health of the scene, than was the situation when I was a young artist, for example.
Now that the impact can be felt of our presence on the international scene, perhaps we can all spare some time to reflect about the depth of the content that we present. Hopefully the children of African heritage who are growing up in the UK of today will feel emboldened to probe deeply in Afrocentric world views and to share them with the world.