/ 3 October 2016

#CulturePop: Chasing ideals in a country called Africa

Solange – also treated us to a new album which came as a surprise. To call it pleasant is not enough.
(Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Protest is taking action against injustice. It is expressing distaste at a state of affairs. #Ngumhlangano, a gathering to review and rebuild. Protest is fuelled by the idea that we can do better. It is hopeful. It feeds on public ideals. But Protest is also a contest. For value judgments and other evils. In this South Africa, our land of broken promises, the #FeesMustFall movement is what happens when loose ends aren’t tied but untied.

It’s like the students and all struggling people i.e. all of us, are in a bad relationship with our narcissistic partner who sells us dreams only to scold us for even believing in those dreams. Then they leave you hanging while asking you to hang in there. Hang in that psychological warfare. When are we going to be more equal than the others?

You quickly turn the page before the existential crisis leaves you in a panic, only to be hailed as invisible in another headline. UK Foreign Secretary Borris Johnson refers to Africa as “that country”’. He said this in a speech in front of other people. His words served, in his mind, to encourage the rest of the world to adopt British economic values post Brexit insecurities. Values that “continue to lift the world out of poverty”.

But really, just how important is “that country” to this one? Nor the pound to the rand, the pula or the kwacha? Especially when you consider that global trade is hardly conducted in pound sterling as was the case a hundred years ago. Mr Johnson you can still keep your Britain. This guy in the same squad as Donald Trump. I’m convinced.

It was everybody’s soul mate and Queen of Gqom who had parents and responsible citizens worried over the message of her new offering, Mercedez. The party-starter is said to encourage and glamourise the use of a slew of new drugs that have entered the market. Could it be? Could our leader be leading us astray in such a way? When I heard that she had a new song out I got nervous. Wololo became the liberation song of our generation and a feat to repeat. But the care-free Babes promised she was no one hit wonder. I just wish she didn’t make her second coming about drugs.

The other Knowles – Solange – also treated us to a new album which came as a surprise. To call it pleasant is not enough. She does though, make her politics ours. As black women, she makes our politics pleasant and soulful and wistful. She serves disagreeable and sadness, in songs like Cranes in the Sky and Don’t Touch My Hair, on a bed of untamed cotton plucked from the fields of yesteryear. Some members of the Bey Hive aren’t impressed that she’d release so soon after Lemonade but is it necessary that the mere parallel is even drawn? It always is. When really, Solange has grown into a league of her own making.

Speaking of parallels, Queen of Katwe premiered last week. Katwe is a place in Kampala, where Phiona is from. Phiona picks up chess and becomes a prodigy and the story happens in the details. Queen of Katwe is an honest portrayal. An empowering portrayal. And amidst the stock reports of it’s poor showing numbers at American theatres, this Disney film is a must-see simply because it comes from love. It is an affirming representation and creates Uganda on-screen in the tradition of the Disney Classics storytelling we’re all familiar with.

Finally, as we enter “Ocsober” and move closer to that ideal, here’s a tip to tide you over: if you’re going to take it seriously, stay off social media. Twitter especially. Chill is a lost thing over in those parts.