Isn’t it about time for us to outline clear terms of reference for the various strands of cultural expression that Africans put forward in the UK and other Diaspora communities? Not every UK musician of West African heritage creates and performs Afrobeat (as originated by Fela Anikulapo Kuti), or Afrobeats (as performed by the “hip-life” performers of the young adult generation of today).We need more knowledgeable social observers and cultural commentators, to make sense of the variegated scenes that we have, to facilitate more understanding between creative practitioners and audiences or consumers.
Dance artists who aim to create their own vocabularies could draw inspiration from Western contemporary dance techniques, and blend those ideas with the things they have learnt from the dance language of a specific part of Africa. They shouldn’t be placed in the same category as those who are inspired by Azonto and Street Dance, even though it is possible to be eloquent in symbolising aspects of life, using those movement genres.
Similarly, the worlds of fine art and design created by people of African descent should be clearly recognised for what they are, in distinct categories, so that each individual artist or designer’s creative work can be given a fair chance in the market place.
I used to write an arts column a couple of decades ago for Nigeria Home News – a London based newspaper, in which I explored these ideas in detail. Where are the taste makers and opinion formers of today that have an inside track on what our people do?
How can we be more proactive about presenting and selling our creative products to the world? Part of the answer to this question lies in explaining the output of our creative people in more detail.