I wrote this in reaction to oft heard utterances that suggest that those who live/lived under dictators somehow were sleepwalking as the dictators took and held power and thus were deserving of those dictators… I have been writing and re-writing this for such a long time now, because it is painful to see the world repeating the same mistakes, over and over and over. But we are children of time… And we forgot that monsters often come with smiling faces. They come offering us gifts. Monsters that come snarling and foaming at the mouth only exist in children’s fairy tales. Most monsters come to us with honeyed tongues and only gradually draw back the mask to reveal their faces. But we should know when we see them. Because we have seen them before. And I think… we will see them again. We see them now.
Over the last few years, I have been thinking of what decolonisation should mean for legal academics in UK HE specifically. This essay reflects some of my ‘initial’ thoughts on where we are now, regarding decolonisation and law, and what we must think about as we chart a path forward. As part of my reflections and work on this, I am also convening a conference holding on the 13th September 2019: ‘Decolonisation and the Law School.’ Attend if you can.
‘The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie.’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
I have often written about freedom, about what it means, how it is distorted, when it comes, how it almost always feels like it is out of reach, how we are deceived into believing it has arrived, how we continue to yearn for it. This short poetic piece is a reflection of my feelings about how resistance and agitation for all manner of freedoms are generational and transnational struggles. We stand where we are, pushing for freedom, being able to imagine it, only because of those who came before us, who fought for the same freedoms we fight for now. And our cross-continental, cross generational struggles are connected. And so, we also draw strength from those fighting similar battles elsewhere in the world. And those who will come after us draw strength from all who have lived before them. We become unstoppable across time and space. Together.
I keep trying to explain to people why I prefer that we refrain from the use of the acronyms BAME/BME. Often I am asked to give an off the cuff statement about it – in the middle of other business, while passing by, on the way to somewhere else, and I am never entirely satisfied with my answer… so I have decided to write a short-ish essay on it. Next time I am asked I will just send the link to this. I will also like to know what people think about the acronym and this essay, so please drop a comment. Ese pupo.
I don’t like writing about rape and sexual assault. It is deeply traumatising. Not just to me who is doing the writing, but to those who may read it. I am conscious in my writing to, as much as is possible, do no harm. Furthermore, on the issue of rape in Nigeria though, if I was to begin to write all I know, all I have experienced and all I have heard, there will not be enough space, enough heart and enough forbearance for me to write. Also, there are many experiences which are not mine, or not mine alone. Each person should be able to control how, if and when they tell their stories. And in the case of sexual violence, where we are talking of a fundamental seizure of bodily control. At least we should be i control of our stories. At least we should have that.
When I wrote this, I was thinking about the many arguments made against social justice movements, movements for climate justice, movements for political and epistemic decolonisation and such. The arguments are often based on the utter falsehood that the past has nothing to do with the present. This fallacy presupposes that we wake up each morning, fully and newly formed, unencumbered by yesterday’s ideologies. This fallacy is predicated on not realising that humanity’s children are locked in time, doing yesterday over and over and over and over and over… just with better gadgets.
This is a continuation from Part 1: In the previous post, I explained how African (Black) history is mostly a history of distortion and is mostly missing. We talk of the fallen antelope and not the lion that killed her and continues to feed on her. We fake-cry over a burning building and ignore those who set fire to it. We talk of Africa without knowing her. And to not know Africa is to not know the world. You do not study the world if such a massive part of it is missing from your knowledge base. You do not study the world.
This post is an amalgamation of two talks I gave in the last half a year:
- ‘Pan-Africanism, Afrofuturism and Decolonisation: Realising visions of freedom,’ University of Bristol, Black History Month programmes, 4 October 2018
- Getting to the Future by Revisiting the Past: Law, history, education, knowledge in Africa, The International Students Conference for Africa (TISCA) 2019, University of Lancaster, 5-7 April 2019
I have divided this into two parts.
John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo was born 6 April 1935. He is a Nigerian poet and playwright, who often publishes as J. P. Clark and John Pepper Clark. His poem, “The Casualties” is essentially about the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). When the Eastern part of Nigeria named itself Biafra and seceded from Nigeria, in the resulting conflict there were there were about 100,000 overall military casualties, while between 500,000 and 2 million Biafran civilians died of starvation. Most of them children. “The Casualties” emphasises the very widespread fallout of war. Nigeria has not come to terms with this tragedy and atrocity. (Note: I have deliberately not included pictures of starving children below, though they are readily available. It is my personal belief that it is disrespectful to share pictures of children in this way)