Africa and Africans have a long history of being written into darkness. The written word has weighed heavy on us. Used to name and label and distort and deform. Used to know and unknow Africa, till all that remains is an extended history of non-recognition of personhood. We are constantly written into darkness.
But note. Everything written about Africa is a product of the thing written before it. And that thing flows from the thing written before that. And we were always written by outsiders. The hunter writing of the conquered lion. So almost everything written about Africa is derived from a very negative place. It is derived from a foundation of the non-recognition of personhood. Despite us knowing that the Hegelian non-recognition was based on faulty scientific racism, there has been no radical change in how Africa is viewed, only modifications and cosmetic tempering of tone.
Because the way we write about Africa is historically negative and contrived, instead of looking at African people as people, Africans are often seen through the lens of disaster. We see ourselves through a lens of catastrophe. It seems that it is almost impossible to talk of Africa in a positive way, not in Africa and never anywhere else. We see Africa as the location of disaster and as the location of disaster only. What about the people who live there? People who are in some way African? How do we speak of Africanness as more than a navigation of black pain? How do we move past Africa as warning, an example of how not to do? Because we are thus deprived of the luxury of hope. Nobody believes ‘Africa’ can be good. Not even Africans.
And this writing of us into darkness has serious socio-political, socio-economic and socio-political consequences way, past the loss of hope. It has an impact on international policies, international relations, knowledge systems, use of historical powers, how African nations position themselves. And so Africans lose hope in Africa. And so Africa is caught in an eternal exodus. Because Africans ‘know’ where hope lies. As Adam Mayer says of African migratory patterns:
‘the migrant, knows exactly the truth about wherein lies empire. Be she a member of the global elite who purchases a legal stake in empire, or a poor refugee who hangs off a boat next to Queensland, Australia, she knows perfectly well that her destination is part of the corporate imperial Western core, and that is why her chances of physical survival, security and self-actualization are so much higher there than in her home. This also tells us that …much of the planet’s non-Western landmass is becoming more unlivable as well as more unjust, for the subaltern and even for the bourgeoisie.’ [Mayer:2018]
Africa is caught up in a mimetic masquerade. We are a worn out facsimile put through a distorting copier, several lifetimes removed from the original. We ignore the fact that mimicry of cultural ideology will never become mastery, notwithstanding sincerity of the mimic or the master. Ignore the fact that the reason for the mimesis is predicated on non-recognition of personhood. We mimic Western cultural norms rather than rediscover and master our own. And therefore we are constantly being written into darkness. We are constantly writing ourselves into darkness. Now is the time to write ourselves out of the darkness. Time to take back our agency. Now. Let us write ourselves into the light. Let us step into the light. Together.
Adam Mayer ‘Dissolving Empire: David Harvey, John Smith, and the Migrant‘ African Review of Political Economy (2018)