Remembering the colonies

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My train of thought leads very neatly into the world of colonialists. There is a much quoted story about a peripheral member of the British Royal Family who clashed with people of darker hues in a restaurant and apparently told them to “go back to the colonies”, thinking that this comment would achieve some sort of closure in the fracas, or put those people in their place.

Obviously, none of us can change what has happened in the past. The history of colonialism from an African perspective is still highly emotive. The last President of the USA was reported by many to take a jaundiced view of the British, due to the experiences of one of his grandparents in Kenya at the hand of British colonial functionaries.

I had my own interesting experience, connected to the uncomfortable feelings and thoughts that could be raised around this issue, when I took in a recording of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s “Colonial Mentality” to a class when I was at Music College, to be listened to by all my fellow students at the time.

There were some listeners in the room who simply didn’t like the recording, for a variety of reasons, only some of which were musical. One person who was present had grown up in colonial Kenya and was very fond of her childhood memories. She asked me “Why is he going on about colonial mentality?”

I explained that Fela was addressing Black Africans who were conditioned to have low self esteem about their heritages, due to the lingering effects of European colonialism. He was suggesting that they should come to terms with reality and live their lives accordingly. This response didn’t go down too well and I guess I didn’t manage to charm my listeners by bringing the recording to their attention.

We can’t change historical events, but we can negotiate regarding our mindsets and attitudes of the present and the future.

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