Hatred is unfurling in the Middle East as I write, exacerbated by the terrible images broadcast on all the television stations. We cannot fail to recognize that these African comic books – whose vitality, but also whose extreme difficulty in surviving, this short dossier attempts to highlight – offer images of another kind. That is, images with a true artistic bearing, images of a « 9th art » which is searching for an identity mid-way between the desire to testify, and an exploration of the passions haunting social life. If I turn off the radio and open the new Africanissimo magazine published in Kinshasa, the Jungle urbaine comic strip by the Congolese Thembo Muhindo Kashauri « Kash » sets the records straight: the Bwana hero is not only a true witness to a town exploding under its tensions, he has the necessary distance to keep his wits about him. Shots from Cameroonian Jean-Marie Teno’s film Chef! come to mind: a chicken thief nearly gets lynched by the passersby. The camera’s presence calms tempers and the spectator also gains distance.
Whilst filmmakers struggle to produce, stifled by the exorbitant cost of film, the comic artists, paupers of the pen and the image, reach all social categories, starting with young people. If fiction writing is philosophy without philosophers, the comic book is film minus the cash! We would be wrong to ignore these explorers of the imagination, who now offer a brilliant alternative to the magazines concocted for so long in Paris, distributed by the hundreds of thousands in Africa, and which, under the guise of sport, music, science or African traditions, cheerfully propagated the dominant ideologies by mythicizing the powers that be. There is a lot to learn from the African comic strip, for our vision is still determined by the West’s tradition of pulp comics filled with fantasies of black men and women, and with the colonial exhibition comic strips which, bar a few refreshing exceptions, the Franco-Belgian art comic books continue to dole out with regard to Africa.
We musn’t reduce comic books to child’s play: they are a real night school, playing an important role not only in learning how to read, but also how to write local languages. The duly-supported Kinshasa and Libreville initiatives effectively contribute to bringing comic books into the limelight. They need to be backed, analyzed, collected, and archived so as to enrich them and to stop them getting buried under the dust. For, these apparently anodyne strips also contribute to resolving the tensions of an exploding world.
///Article N° : 5469