Culture, what culture?

April 2007 -

Is there any African culture to talk about considering the many foreign influences experienced over the years? Breyten Breytenbach shares some doubts with Wonder Guchu.

“I sometimes wonder because I think what people describe as genuine African culture today has become folklore objects made for the tourists, dances or imitation of dances for the foreigners. But yes, we still have producers and practitioners of culture like musicians such as Salif Keita and sculptors who are doing it for the international world. What we lack is promotion and recognition and celebration of African culture on the continent itself. What we have now in form of festivals is not enough.”


"But then when donors come in, what is it they promote and develop?"  

" I am not comfortable with the act of international agencies from Europe or America coming in because they do not want to be seen as sponsors or donors but as partners. They come to participate without realizing they are imposing themselves on us. This is because it is impossible to put forward cultural industries in Africa. Who is going to buy cultural products? Governments will tell you they have other more pressing issues because they see culture as a luxury and not a contribution towards public conscience. In some African countries there are departments of ministries of culture and sports but they are not seen for what they are.”

"Do you think that African youths leaving the continent for Europe, is linked to culture?"

“There was a time when the youths were involved in national politics, because we had a dream of social justice and the goals we fought for. But we have disappointed ourselves. The reason is that people no longer have horizons of appreciation. Look at the despair and the falling apart in countries like Sierra Leone, Somalia, Liberia and Sudan. It brings people to ask themselves why they should study or change things in the world. Or even choose to live in poverty. But by trying to revive pride and dignity through cultural activities and beauty, it helps in creating new horizons for young people.”

Wonder Guchu is a cultural journalist from Zimbabwe