« My dancing and laughter delirious dynamite will blow you away like bombs ».
Léopold Sédar Senghor
Oeuvre poétique, Le Seuil, repub. 1990, p. 224.
The Cameroonian football player Roger Miller danced a few steps of makossa every time he scored a goal at the World Cup, and Nelson Mandela broke into a dance when the election results were announced making him South Africa’s first black president
So that makes black people « natural » dancers? What a condescending cliché! Aren’t such gestures in fact a way of affirming their dignity? By proving them to be intractable, different, undisciplined, and rooted in their culture, aren’t such gestures a way of rejecting hundreds of years of suffering, of recalling the hundreds of years’ struggle for the right to belong to humanity?
We are currently witnessing the American leaders’ spiral into caricature in the present chaos being imposed upon us. The West continues to call itself the « civilised world », stubbornly insisting on believing that it has a duty to civilise the world whilst failing to notice that its own wealth is the product of permanent mixing, of a complex but recurrent appropriation of that alterity it has such difficulty in reconciling itself with.
Recognising this would help the West not to see the world in black and white, as the « shock of civilisations », as the « axis of evil ». Recognising this would help it avoid the decline awaiting just around the corner.
They are thus two, apparently contradictory, movements. On the one hand, we have an African culture that affirms its power of resistance, its tremendous dynamic, which, despite its own contradictions, thus offers the world an essential contribution against rampant standardisation. On the other hand, we have universalising Western thought, which proves itself to be incapable of enhancing the contributions that constitute its very wealth.
Yet, whenever they have tried to understand what it is that makes the world advance, artists have always recognised the subversive power of Africa’s cultural forms. They have often appropriated them without necessarily citing the source and at times even taking pains to erase it. But the traces of this « delirious dynamite » are there, leaving their marks in their own forms.
It is our job to point out the contributions African cultures make and to deconstruct the clichés that prevent their enhancement. That is what this selection of articles, compiled by the Rennes 2 University’s Groupe de Recherches Pluridisiplinaires (Multidisciplinary Research Group) under the direction of Gilles Mouëllic aims to do in this dossier, and we would like to thank them here for this stimulating contribution. It is also the motivation behind our entire undertaking here at Africultures to recognise in order to acknowledge.
Things are never simple. The paths of knowledge are never straightforward. That would be too easy! The West has exoticised and fantasized Africa in its own mercantile interests, and this is still the case, 40 years after independence.
Highlighting Africa’s contribution is not a rearguard struggle, nor the crystallisation of an outmoded or vengeful quest for identity. On the contrary, it is a dynamic undertaking, an effort to highlight a contribution because it is fecund, because it renews our vision, and because recognising it might help us to advance. It contributes to a culture of peace, to the fight against cultural alibis that serve as an excuse for all ignominies.
Culture being the weapon it is, this is really a question of subversion. Analysing African traces is not an exotic curiosity. Rather than confining the other to a difference, it is about recognising the relations that bind us, without denying their implacability. It is about trying to be a mirror for human diversity to reflect its unity too.
///Article N° : 5636