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Serge Olivier Fokoua: Africa has been failed by Westernisation

Westernistion is becoming Africa’s reality. Increasingly, our elites tell us that the west’s way is “modern” and “civilised”, echoing the early colonialists who dismissed our civilisations as “barbaric”, “archaic”, and “uncivilised” to install theirs. They tell us that our institutions are corrupt, that our societies are patriarchal, and that the African traditional religions are rubbish. As western supremacy entrenches itself in our psyche, we are developing a complex that embraces western ideas without considering whether or not they are compatible with our own political, social, economic and cultural system.

Development notion has been presented to Africa as injonction.
When they say « development », this means that every one is suppose to take the same way. With the rules and everything set in advance. And, on this way, there are some people in front, some in the middle, and some at the rear. And, every thing is base on the economic level. They say we should all take the same way. This can not works because of many questions coming out:

Does all the civilizations has the same history?

Does all the civilizations has the same past?

Does all the civilizations has the same principles?

Does all the civilizations has the same aspirations? The response is no.

For me, the development is: Your ability to manage your destiny. You ability to ameliorate your daily life conditions, for everybody, because the African definition of development is base on the community, and not on the individual base as in Europe.

The capacity of everyone to found what he needs, and to live with human dignity.

Today we really need to ask ourselves; is it possible to be on the way of development during more that 50 years. This is actually the situation of many African countries. I think we should be aware that there is some thing going wrong.

In African ideology, or African paradigm, richness or development is never about quantity, but about quality. Richness is all about the relationships with people. The one who is rich in the   original African’s context, is not the one who has a lot of money, but the one who has a lot of knowledge and human relationships.

This said, I would like to mention the Cameroonian writer Axelle Kabou who wrote in 1991 a book titled: « if Africa refuse the development ?». For me the title of this book itself was so relevant. People use to say that Africa is underdeveloped. But the question is: compared to who? It is in relation to the West that this is said. But the way that formalises the development concept is not the African way.

This brings me to the poetry of Jean de la Fontaine;


An iron pot proposed one day
To travel with a pot of clay :
The latter made his best excuse,
And thought it prudent to refuse :
“Better,” he said, “to stay at home,
Than idly thus abroad to roam.
For me the smallest thing that hits,
Will crack or break me all to bits,
Nor scrap of me find home again.
But you,” he cried, “ let nought detain ;
Your texture shows such strength of skin,
I see not aught to keep you in.”
“ I’ll screen you,” cried the solid pot ;
“ If aught of danger be your lot ;
I’ll get between the two, ye know,
And from your body ward the blow.
”This offer made his fears subside,
He joined the iron pot with pride,
And both went hobbling on together,
Laughing at accidents and weather.
But shortly they too near each other roll,
As they went jogging cheek by jowl ;
And all along the way
Suffered that pot of clay.
Hardly, in fine, a hundred paves gone,
When by his comrade he was overthrown,
And smashed to bits without the time to groan.

Then let us with our equals only stay,
Or think with trembling on that pot of clay.
Jean de la Fontaine

This illustrates how Africa has failed by dealing with Development that is an ambiguous notion. We have loosed everything because we are repeating the model of west. When we are repeating the west’s model, we are enriching the west’s model and we are not feeding our model. I mean the religions,(spirituality) the sciences, the institutions…

Actually, we really need to cut the ombilical cord. We really need to rebuild the foundation in order to restore our real identity. We really need a cultural revolution, because in order to solve the economic problem of Africa we first need to have first solve his cultural problem.

On this sense, I would recommend the books: « Repenser le development de l’Afrique à partir de l’Afrique » of Jean Emmanuel Pondi. And, « Et si l’Afrique se réveillait » of Paul Fokam kenmogne, in french.

This is time to cut the ombilical cord. This is time to deal with our own specificities. This is time to deal with an African paradigm. This is time to go back to the African black box. That’s why it is our duty and our responsibility as artists, to refuse to keep going with the consciousness spoliation perpetrated by the Neo-colonialism. We no longer need economic partnership agreements; because it is all about domination. We do not   even need humanitarian help, because, as Fatou Dioume, the Senegalese writer said, « Africans don’t need help, Africa needs respect ».

I am not saying all this because I am an African. I just fight for the cause of the human being agains injustice. I am not an afro-defender, neither an anti western. I am simply a justice follower. I believe that art can be a weapon to resist agains situations as wild and barbaric capitalism, the consumer society, the excesses of food industry, the global warming, the neocolonialism, and any kind of injustice that keeps people in a new form of slavery.

Serge Olivier Fokoua, Co-curator
In charge of the African section, ”History Will Be Kind To Me, For I Intend To Perform It -project”, 2018