On a recent trip home, the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College Trust invited me to a dinner dialogue at a Johannesburg restaurant with artists under 35 to focus on how to better showcase our work on the African continent. Although I am not an expert and could only share my anecdotal evidence and my limited experience as a writer, I am never one to turn down a free dinner so I put on my heels and turned up.
In the dialogue, one thing became clear: perhaps artists mirror society a little more than we think, because, beyond music, many of us seem to think of ourselves as not quite being part of the continent, resulting in a warped manner of marketing our art.
An example if I may. A few years ago I was invited to a university in Europe for a discussion on literature. The organisers requested that I buy my own ticket and I would be refunded. I would also receive a small honorarium. The assumption that I would have enough money for a transatlantic flight was astounding. But it is possible that I would have made a plan if the honorarium was worthwhile. I turned it down. The organisers then asked a friend of mine who made a plan and attended.
Fast forward to earlier this year, when an arts organisation in Nairobi asked me to curate a programme. Despite the tight budget, I agreed because I felt it would give me a chance to showcase to a Kenyan audience the brilliance of African artists. Of the eight artists who would form the team, two were South African because I was anxious to use this as a chance to get more people whose artistic talent I respect to be seen beyond South African borders. read more