In the past couple of years, an overwhelming amount of appeal for African inspired creative content gained global acceptance in creative industries like film, music and visual arts. Comics or movie characters, musical verses or renditions, artistic illustrations and many more routes have been explored on the path of inclusivity and diversity for cultures and races of all kinds in the creative industry. There are two types of art forms when working on realism and they are; the presentational and representational forms of art. The presentational art is when the creator presents the issue or people as they are, and acknowledges the intended audience, making it mostly formal and conversation inclined. Representational sees the creator as an embodiment or representation of the intended audience, living and sharing their plight without the audience input. This has been a cause of worry in the showbiz industry as many artists or style icons have been called out for culture appropriation, which is partly the case here.
Africa is no doubt a continent of rich heritage and deeply rooted in our cultural values, but at the same time, we are an evolving entity with vast knowledge of the modern world, its sophistication and complications. It is way past the time of lecturing the world about our structures or level of technological advancement we have attained. The thousands of cultures scattered around African countries have served as bedrock of the civilization of each of these countries but our films, music, art and fashion doesn’t solely rest on our ancestry and deities as we have evolved.
The representation of Africa, especially in Hollywood or other foreign industries, either rest on the third world war stricken society image or go for the most likely safe one, which is reverting to ancestry or ancient uncivilized African and it has been a recurring case. When Beyonce dropped the trailer for her upcoming album off Lion King with an African theme, she was quizzed about her constant gentrification of the ancient African culture while having a limited knowledge about it. This sometimes leads to inaccurate depiction or interpretation. A good example is disapproval of black Americans against white people telling the story of black struggle and slavery, which usually turns out to be some of the most applauded, awarded and rated black movies for obvious reasons.
Does our ancestry and pre historic experiences need a light shined on it? Yes. Does it have to be the only way in which we are portrayed? No. What’s needed is a balance. As you portray the ancient African, you make it presentational and let the audience understand the historic inclination of what you show them and when you portray a contemporary African man, he should be faced with universal and random issues and not just fixated on hardship.
I strongly feel the way out of this is by working with Africans in the creation process of anything that is geared at portraying them in order to present relatable, accurate and real life issues.
This article was written by Muhammed Ibrahim; connect with him on IGa here