Sometimes I wonder what art should be, especially as an Afrikan Artist. Arguments have ensued on what the purpose of art should be; whether art is simply created with the aim of self-expression from the individual artist or whether the true value of art needs to be judged on its force of impact to its audience by highlighting themes affecting society such as religion, politics, and culture. The phrase started in France in the early 19th century, “l’art pour l’art”, which emphasized on the concept that the utmost value of art is void of any function other than that of the artists self expression. This 19th century slogan has faced a lot of criticism and I am not in the least bit ashamed to say that I believe this mantra to be absolute nonsense.
“l’art pour l’art” is a beautiful lie. Consider the Afrikan Artist, living in a time where the Afrikan far and wide is searching for himself, desperately looking into a history which has been eroded by westernization, doing art for art’s sake would not only be a waste, but a disservice to those young Afrikans who will come after us. I feel like we are forgetting ourselves, our culture, our history and most of all our identity, and what better more effective way to be reminded of these themes than through our art. Art for Afrika’s sake is the mantra we at Avandu believe in, one that we hope will revive our cultural spirit.
In the show, star talk, by host Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking on the importance of art education watch here. Neil states that when you visit other countries, and they show you the elements that make them distinct from other people, you will always be presented with ART. Art is the most integral medium through which the history, culture, and the true identity of a society can be presented. Think about the reason why countries have museums, are they not filled with art and do they not preserve the history and culture of a people. Again, think as far back as the cave dwellers, was it not the cave paintings and sculptures that led us to understand the identity and the history of cave men.
Through the various kinds of art forms, such as literary works and songs among others, the diversity of a community is celebrated. Kenya is one of the most diverse countries in the world with 44 different tribes/cultures. The country invested in an art museum called the National archives, which is the largest Pan-Afrikan art gallery in the continent comprised of different artefacts of the different cultures in the country. It is therefore without a doubt that art is the most effective aspect in facilitating the preservation of culture, history, and identity of a community. Neil concludes his articulation by stating that if there is a country devoid of art, it is not a country worth living in. A country without art is a country without identity.
The arts enhance the process of learning. The systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional, and motor capacities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning (Bryant ,2017). Looking at the aforementioned statement, there is no argument that it depicts the true value of art and why art, without most people acknowledging it, is present in all other disciplines. In a study done of more than 2000 children called the Burton Study, the results found out that that those in the arts curriculum were far superior in creative thinking, self-concept, problem-solving, self-expression, risk-taking, and cooperation than those who were not (Bryant , 2017).
There has been a massive culture shift or rather; a severe dilution in the Afrikan culture after the different colonialists left this great continent. Pre-colonial Afrika was once filled with empires, kingdoms, sacral chiefdoms, and monarchs. The Nubian empire from Egypt was evidenced as the first monarch in the world. There have been evidences of Yoruba Kingdoms through metal art and Sculptures from Benin, which have stood the test of time.
This can hardly be noticed today because colonalists suppressed and destroyed the beliefs of the people and replaced them with their own. The values eroded are critical to our Afrikan identity. To keep Afrikan culture alive, we have to use the arts to remind ourselves of our history (Jenkwe, 2005).
In today’s neocolonialist times, western culture is considered the norm while our own indigenous cultures seem a bit foreign. This can be evidenced by our taste in music, films and literature. Ironically, we have to go to museums to view artifacts from our own pre-colonial culture. To add insult to injury, it is not us who collect the artwork, but foreigners who ‘seem’ to appreciate our history more than we do.
Despite the setbacks and struggles on the Afrikan culture from colonialism, the strength of our artwork still stands out. Thanks to the Afrikan artists who have taught us to appreciate and embrace our culture and are expressing it though the different art forms. The rich culture and history of Afrika is so large it’s a wonder how we ever feel the need to look outside our own culture for inspiration. Afrikan art and crafts, films, music, textile, architectural designs, literary works among others are telling ‘the Afrikan story’.
We are making more films as Afrika, depicting our political and social life; I need not mention Tsotsi or the likes of the more recent queen of Katwe and Nairobi Half Life. We have a number of writers who have depicted the stories of Afrika enlightening to all of us of its cultural splendor, examples are the likes of Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Buchi Emecheta among others. We are a blessed continent full of culture and history and slowly getting into our stride as a force in global arts and entertainment.
Bryant. B (2017) The importance of fine arts education.
Neil DeGrass Tyson (2016) Star Talk. Available at: Link
Jenkwe, T. (January 01, 2005). The influence of colonialism on some core Afrikan values: The Tiv experience. Afrikan Culture and Civilization, 411-422.

17 thoughts on “ART FOR AFRIKAS’ SAKE

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