David G Maillu
I have just finished writing a play called “Marriage Handcuffs” as a contribution to the troubled waters of modern marriage. However, writing a play is one thing but having it staged is a different things because of many technical and financial reasons. Misfortune is in the fact that the play might even outlive me with its unstaged status. In fact, I have written six plays but only one of them has been staged.
The failure of writing being unpublished doesn’t stop any committed writer from writing. When the urge and idea crops up for you to write, it hits you like pregnancy. It should give birth or, worse, it aborts. Worst, it might kill you. Once the creative idea is conceived, you must give it its logical gestation that leads finally to birth.
Throughout my writing career I have been plagued and pushed by the fears that the intensity of the present imported cultural values is, in a matter of time, going to bury the aesthetics of the African integrity. We have reached a stage in which when you talk about African values, young people ask, “What are they?” Others ask, “What do you mean by African values?” When you talk about African integrity, be prepared for answering the question, “What is it that you can describe as African integrity?”
They don’t ask that because they are stupid but because they are ignorant of those values which, nonetheless, do not openly feature in the school curriculum. That curriculum, for example, is best in growing culturally pathetic citizens who believe best in love grown in Hollywood. The overview of this is best expressed by a quotation from one extraordinary manuscript I read called From Marriage to Divorce by Dr Joyce Nzulwa, a reflection of her own collapsed marriage in which she says, “I cannot overlook the growing-up picture of marriage which is a cocktail of “naïve” mental script. You grow up flying in the clouds of life. In those clouds you are positioned to think that marriage as a rosy portrait of selfless love.” This is an obvious lamentation of the grave social ignorance in the young generation.
I don’t know of any political party in Africa founded on African values religiously. When the British talk about “Conservative Party”, they proudly recognize a party that expresses and promotes British cultural values. It was just the other day when Kenya became independent; that is why the term “postcolonial states” is still fashionable. Before the arrival of African independence it was a commonplace by foreign scholarship that Africans have neither History nor Philosophy. The independence has given birth through published works screaming, “It’s not true that Africans have no history and Philosophy.” However, that effort has been very insignificant.
Most of our scholars are plants growing in posts of our postcolonial masters. If only our leaders and scholars had taken a step to remove themselves from pots and planted themselves on African soil, our young people would not be asking, “What do you mean by African values?” How true of the Waswahili statement that Mwacha mila ni mtumwa?
You can start the dialogue by asking: As Africans, what is it that we can die for in defence? What is the pride of being black? What is it that blacks can teach the world? On the world market, what hardware does the Blackman bring to that market? It was the psychology of feeling hopeless and search of identity that forced Black Americans to start crying, “Black is beautiful?” But is black really beautiful? What are the dimensions and aesthetics of that beauty compared to the beauty of non-blacks? What is it that the Blackman has done to prove to the world that he is equal to anybody in the world? What challenges do Blacks throw to Whites?
Up to this stage, politicians have done miracles in making us embrace imported values and structures. But they have performed miserably in helping us reclaim and promote African integrity in the world market. Civilization is not only speaking in foreign languages. We can speak those languages yet remain puppets of the natives of those languages. The slave can speak perfectly the language of the master yet he remains a slave. The grand challenge should be for us to speak their languages and use those languages to prove to them how important or superior we are.
Now that politically we have been given continuous cultural technical knockouts by our postcolonial masters, what new technics can we use to become Mohammed Alis in the cultural boxing ring? My answer is that we must go back to the forest and learn the witchcraft of cultural survival. In that forest we will find that the only weapons left for us to use are arts.
The most healing herb will come from creative writing. Chinua Achebe used Things Fall Apart and other works to reclaim a portion of that dignity. Ngugi has used the River Between and other works to reclaim that portion. So did Okot p,Bitek, Grace Ogot, Ayi Kwei Ammahm and the others. It is the culturally committed writer who is going to help us reclaim and reshape our cultural values from being eroded by the western cultural storm.
What the Blackman may easily forget is that, for ages, he has been on the Whiteman’s menu. Hunters and butchers know how to cut the prey in the joints. Slave Trade, Scramble for Africa, Colonialism, Neocolonialism, and lately the scramble for African natural resources. The African is being eaten alive!
The African can only fight hardest and win in this battle if he knows the value of what he has to defend. It’s survival for the fittest; but the Blackman is still far from being the fittest.
Who says the African cannot excel in technology and even send human beings to the moon and beyond? Once upon a time Kipchoge Keino won the Olympic marathon and astounded the world of the Whiteman. Today Kenyans dominate the world in athletics as the White world watch in total amazement…
The worst poverty is poverty of knowledge. Africans are starving for creative works brewed on the African pot. Culturally, we have been pushed into the ICU. It is only the writer armed with the skill and power of bewitching the African mind with inspiring and meaningful works, who can remove us from that ICU. The best that our government can do is to stage an aggressive policy in supporting creative writers to come up with big volumes of creative works for not only consumption but for psychological healing. Without a strong publishing industry, for example, those creative works cannot reach the consumer. Without aggressive theater centers the written plays will never reach the consumers. No cultural renaissance can be achieved without a strong reading culture
African pioneer writers kicked off with the spirit of engaging the reader with inspiring cultural materials. Unfortunately, we have got a new generation that has not picked up things from where those pioneers left. The pioneer generation, which is the bridge between the traditional Africa and modernity, is facing its sunset time; hence the danger of leaving the job unfinished. This is why we desperately must grow cultural caretakers in the modern generation. For the time being, writers cannot and should not afford the luxury of engaging in producing works which do not add value to the reclamation of African dignity.
The psychology of African socialism is heavily founded on the family and neighbourhood. The underline of that socialism is expressed by the statement: I am because they are and they are because I am. When I cry they cry with me and when they cry I cry with them. In African philosophy, individualism is a liability rather than an asset. Leadership and material things must come only to glorify the social fabric of the community, but not as a factor for disunity. Spiritual poverty is worse than material poverty.