« We need to act like men of thought
and think like men of action »
It is not unusual for the weight of things around us to shed light on our own singularity. Quite by chance, we had planned to commemorate the death of Francis Bebey one year on, just as a dormant and inward-looking France was brutally and spectacularly awaking to threat of extremism.
Is there any correlation between this elegant and subtle man and the dangerous rise of a sad old demagogue? Precisely that they are the perfect antimony. Bebey was indeed the living proof of the incongruity of our national Fantomas. In a climate of growing concern with issues of identity, he never became obsessed with Africanity. On the contrary, he defended artistic plurality for all. His way of reminding us, as the griots do, that the future stems from the past was never reductive. He quite simply pointed out that memory is the path to dignity. In this respect, he made a huge empirical and creative contribution to ethno-musicology. He drew an intensely acute overall understanding from this rooting that necessarily gave rise to a joyful humanism.
This is the kind of humanism we need today. Bebey opened the way to a subtle, tranquil, but determined criticism. A hard worker and polyvalent creator, he truly acted like a man of thought, and thought like a man of action.
Choosing a major African figure as the subject of a dossier for the first time in 50 issues is not neutral either at a time when we are re-examining our role and how it can best be fulfilled. Although a monthly critical journal was imperative five years ago considering the void surrounding contemporary African cultural forms in the press, things have changed today. Our team has grown, other magazines have developed their arts columns, and there has been a knock-on « Africultures effect ». We are pursuing this work with a vengeance on our web site, which has now become a reference, receiving over 3000 visits a day. But we feel that it is important to give our venture new depth, to propose reflection not only about, but which also takes the arts as a starting point. A new Africultures is thus in the pipeline for 2003. It will give creators even more space and will examine things in more depth. We will endeavour to work in synergy, independent of all powers and cliques. We will avoid getting trapped in identity politics, whilst at the same time acclaiming the singular contributions of African cultures. It will be the analytical, critical journal these cultures need and deserve.
It will remain faithful to the spirit that has guided us right from the start, remaining in touch with current affairs and the world and endeavouring never to lose sight of people like Francis Bebey’s openness, subtlety, determination, and dignity.
///Article N° : 5586