July 19, 2024
Colloquium TheArtHub

We need new myths

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  • July 10, 2024
  • 4 min read
We need new myths

By Qudus Onikeku

PLACES are complex things. They constitute what has been done there, the quality and the nature of thought that has been had there, those that were birthed there, those that came and became indigenes overtime, and others that left to never return, a place is also defined by the way history has leaked into the landscape and shape the people over time. Our environment naturally shapes our psychology, which then determines our mythology, our myths are the basis for developing our philosophy, and our indigenous philosophy should be the bedrock for all our innovations in the arts, sciences and technology.

So, what happens when a society is ordered by hegemonic ideologies? This question acknowledges that prior to colonial encounters, our ancestors had aspirations for our societies, there must have been an imagined future in that great past. How long then, does it take for a people to forget themselves completely? For there to be wholeness again, don’t we need to re/member? Here the notion of remembering the future is literal rather than poetic. Is it possible to reinstall an original operating system- the original destiny? Is an ideological surgery possible in a situation where the bodies and the organs of the patient have been dismembered and scattered all across the globe? To re/member, don’t we need to first and foremost gather such bodies in close proximity? In the same place, at the same time.

In Africa, myths transfigure reality. They are public dreams, vehicles of communication between the past and the future. By myth, we mean the rituals and beliefs of a people, but we also mean the stale and worn out misconceptions the world has about Africa as an essentially strange dark continent doomed with black magic. In order to see, smell, hear, and feel, that is, to sense existence in the appropriate mood, one will need to momentarily suspend disbelief and embrace a high level definition of realism as the representation of all that is present; i.e. what we sense, what we don’t sense and what cannot be sensed; i.e the seen, the unseen and the unseeable. Our perception makes our world, the world is not as we see it, but as we perceive it. Now there seems to be a tension between our double consciousness; the way we see ourselves from our own eyes, and the way we want the world to see us, still from our own eyes. Old myths are no longer operative in the direction of our redemption, and effective new myths have not arisen to replace them. As a result, our age is confused.

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QDancers in action

Our artists and activists, historians and journalists, administrators and managers, our culture custodians and urban culture curators, our scholars and engineers, designers and gamers, our thinkers, makers, and creatives at large have played the crucial role of re-establishing the cultural intelligence, the innovative thinking, and the knowledge production of our societies where it has been attacked. Pointing us to worlds unseen, clearing paths to make new roads towards the unknown and experiencing unimaginable adversity on their way. To have done that against all odds, they become a sort of magician, employing trickster approaches to place making through shape shifting, and time bending storytelling skills in order for our societies to move forward. Although they are visible to the world around them, yet they are hard to capture – hidden in plain sight. Afropolis 2024 is for our stories and their tellers.

How then does a performance art festival show up in a way to elevate the genius of a place? Why are we proposing communal improvisation as a magical technology for our reawakening? If we are able to view traditional ceremonies in Africa and elsewhere as works of performance art, we will note that what is at hand is a space and a time that exceeds the dimensions of space and time, and that provokes a sense of communion among the actors involved, including the audience, because in reality there’s no such thing as audience, but participants. In a performance, the individual literally dissolves into the collective, much as in the state of trance, where we can no longer say who is who, what is here, when are we and where is this happening, the exchange between dancers and their audience does not occur on an intellectual level, but on an emotional, or dare i say, a magical plane. Performance is a language that allows us to bypass words, and discourse altogether – to say the unsayable; a way of transforming the chaotic world of sensations into a world of forms and representation, the stuff magic is made of; the kind of magic Africa retains an absolute mastery.

* Onikeku is the Founder/Artistic Director of Afropolis

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