By Asiedua Amma Akoto, Portia Honu and Phoebe Priscilla Amoako
“For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.” ~Maya Angelou
About ten years ago, it was not acceptable to walk around with an afro. You might be deemed unemployable if you dared to attend interviews without torturing your hair with imported approved chemicals to rid your hair of its natural curls. Parents might warn their children of your company if you showed up at a formal event in clothes made from bean-like patterns with a plethora of shouting colors: African print. No, you could not just do that. You needed to wear grey, black, white, blue-black, brown…the list of boring colors are endless! And need we add that locally acquiring a western accent served as the cherry on the cake!
The last stage of Pan-Africanism is to raise historical and cultural awareness which seemed to have been lost. In doing this, Africans in the diaspora need to reconcile with Africans on the continent to learn and be able to re-socialize. This socialization strategy of pan Africanism contributed to the birth of Afrocentrism. Dr Molefi Kete Asante, one of the most published contemporary scholars who has published over 70 books, defined Afrocentrism as “What will Africans do if there were no white people?” The response to this question is what is evident around us today.
“Let us all agree to die a little, or even completely so that African unity may not be a vain word” ~Ahmed Ben Bella
Without an awareness campaign, Africans in the diaspora and on the continent are subconsciously developing a strong preference for things that define Africa. The natural hair frenzy is a significant part of this new movement. Most women are now ‘going natural’ and actually studying organic techniques to treat their natural curly hairs. The African print fabrics are no longer restricted to royalty or occasions like funerals and traditional weddings. These fabrics are being used to make formal clothes and every day wear, which was previously not the case. Even handbags, backpacks and laptop pouches are now made from African print fabric. In as much as these changes are very individualistic, they form a sense of unity and might probably be classified as one of the strongest wordless campaign happening around the world now.
The degree to which our perspectives on superficial things like our hair and clothes are changing give a sense of hope to the potential success of Pan-Africanism. It is the start of our taking pride in who we are as a people and holding up our values. Someday, this confidence should transcend to things that matter more like our political and economic states.
“The African Union may be a shadow of the original post-colonial vision. But its potential to inspire remains.” ~Ngugi wa Thiong’o
During our last class, there was a strong debate on the topic “What is truly African?” While some debated that things that look African and were not made in Africa cannot possibly be tagged African, others raised the argument that once it was an African concept developed into tangible things irrespective of where that development happened, it can always be labeled “African” with justification. Here is a new debate that could spring out from the topic in question: “Have Africans compromised on genuinely African tangibles and accepted what foreign organizations like Vlisco and Woodin forcibly tag as African because they simply utilize a couple of meaningless motifs cum colors and print them on cloths for the African market?” In as much as answers may be relative, this is something worth thinking about.