‘All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.’ T. E. Lawrence
Considering all that has gone before and what is still happening in Africa, I have a thought about our future and where we must start. We need to dream different African dreams. We need to disrupt the darkness. We need to step into the light. It is time. Now. Time to dream new African dreams.
Africa has often been called the dark continent. A continent shrouded in night. A people on the edges of humanity. On the continent and outside it, our understanding of African crises is reflexively attributed to our construction of Africa as an ‘absolute other’; our gaze of Africa is seen through its representations rather than its substantiation or any engagement with African humanity or the subjects’ lived experiences. These false representations confine our collective memory to one of absolute night, forgetting the existence or possibility of sunrise. Of sunlight. Of a perpetual African dawn. So we must dream new African dreams.
We often reduce Africa to a single cautionary tale. As Nyamnjoh laments: ‘Monological, non-reflexive and non-inclusive representations of parts of an arbitrarily mapped-out and confined Africa continue to be the dominant mode of comprehending the continent’. [2012:68]
We understand Africa as a single thing, a frozen concept. As more than a place and less than a place. Africans as an othered people. We understand Africa as forever lost in the darkness, forever smaller than what she is. (Even her size is cartographically distorted!)
Oelofsen says that ‘“Africa” denotes more than a geographical location’. She suggests that
acknowledging the concept of Africa and the negativity that has been attached to it, is to acknowledge the effect such conceptualisation has on intellectual engagement with Africa. [2015:140] We cannot dream true African dreams till we know the true Africa. So our dreams must start by unlearning, by unravelling and travelling. Our nightmares of impossibility are shrouded by this false thing of Africa we have created, intellectualised and internalised. So we must dream new African dreams.
But as the quote above says, we must dream in the day, and then we must act. ACT! We must act with open eyes, we must make our dreams possible, we must make a new Africa possible. We must disrupt both the narrative and the reality. We must start by questioning accepted truths and rejecting them. We must MAKE a new Africa possible.
We must reject the African nation state as the paramount measure of our identity. The creation of African states based on arbitrary lines on the ground should be disrupted. The narrative that preserving those lines on the ground avoids flooding the continent with buckets of blood, makes a mockery of all the blood that has already been shed. Congo, Liberia, South Africa, Rwanda, Eritrea, Somalia… And these lines lock us in. They do not liberate. Not even on the continent. How on earth does it make any sense that from the continent it is easier to travel to France than to Angola. No transport links. No ease of procurement of intra-African visas. These lines are an affront to us. Human movement has been a part of Africa since the beginning of time. It is more natural to move than to stay. Keeping people within artificial borders is like trying to trap the whirlwind. A new Africa where we are not imprisoned by our arbitrary borders is possible. We must make a new Africa possible.
We must reject colonial remnants. Most especially in education. Education feeds into everything else – health, infrastructure, employment, governance, economics, trade etc. We must understand that African education systems are based in colonialism. Fundamental to such a system is the idea that anything Africans create and produce and conceptualise is considered inferior unless it is based on a Eurocentric model. How can we develop anything for ourselves when our starting point is inferiority? Where do we go from that starting point when the only accepted end point is to become something else? Someone else? Someone less African? We need to reject colonial remnants. Not external ideas, but colonial remnants. Colonialism was perpetrated on an ideology of African inferiority. So we must change that. Stop that. Our day dreams must be new. They must be African. We must make a new Africa possible.
We, Africans must unite. Now and forever more. Amen. Difference should not preclude unity. Though we have different languages, cultures, customs, religions, beliefs, experiences… we can work together. We must work together. I am Pan-African. I believe in the Pan-African ideal. Pan-Africanism is the belief that African peoples, both on the African continent and in the African Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny. Blackness and Africanness are intertwined. They have been intertwined in despair, now they should be intertwined in victory, intertwined in joy, intertwined in the new African dawn. Together. Together, we must make a new Africa possible.
Now, all I have said above may seem too difficult, nigh impossible to achieve. But mountains are only climbed one step at a time. In battle, victories are won one blow at a time. No victory can be won when we focus on how hard the battle is. Let us not focus on that. Let us focus on how right it is to do the impossible. Not on how impossible it is to do what is right. It is right to make a new Africa possible. It is right to have a new Africa. So let us be dangerous. Let us be dangerous to the darkness. Let us disrupt the darkness. Let us dream new African dreams. Let us dream them now. Let us dream them with open eyes. Now. During the day. And let us act. Now. Let us act with conviction. With self-belief. Without hesitation. Now. And make a new Africa possible. Now. Let us be possible. Now.
- Adebisi, Foluke Ifejola, Decolonising Education in Africa: Implementing the Right to Education by Re-Appropriating Culture and Indigeneity (November 10, 2016). Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, Vol. 67(4), p. 433–51, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2883552
- Adebisi, Foluke. 2017. “Afro-Nesia And Afro-Tortion“. Blog. Foluke’s African Skies.
- Adebisi, F. (2016). Language in African Education. [Blog] Foluke’s African Skies.
- Mbembé, J-A. On the Postcolony. Vol. 41. Univ of California Press, 2001.
- Francis B Nyamnjoh, ‘Blinded by Sight: Divining the Future of Anthropology in Africa’ (2012) 47 Africa Spectrum.
- Rianna Oelofsen, ‘Decolonisation of the African Mind and Intellectual Landscape’ (2015) 16(2) Phronimon.