In the arts, there have been some encouraging developments in recent years. It doesn’t feel as unusual as it used to, that there are soloists in the genres of ballet and classical music that happen to be of African descent (however far back that heritage might reside in the person’s genealogy).There have even been rare sightings of events in major arts venues that focus on the output of composers and choreographers of African descent, who choose to express ideas within the same areas of activity.
The next stage in our journey towards a state of affairs where people can be what they need or want to be will be the time when the aesthetics of the work presented from these artists can be clearly identified as being rooted in the heritages of their forbears.
There is a generation of elders in the arts community who were pioneers in daring to be transparent in this way. Most of them are writers and visual artists. It is possible that the art forms those artists express ideas from are more likely to allow access to that sort of unfettered openness than the performing arts, but that is the way things have worked out.
I remember attending a symposium for composers of African descent, where a senior artist suggested in a speech that we could all draw inspiration from the successes of African literature. There is no mistaking where the essence of the ideas expressed by the likes of Ngugi wa Thiongo, Chinua Achebe or Mongo Beti come from.
Afonja’s Minstrel is my new contribution to the canon in question. Opera, Music Drama, Concert Theatre, Singing Theatre – whatever one choose to call the art form, is in need of as many works as possible that take for granted the fact that people of African descent are present in this world and we have compelling stories to tell.