It has always been a matter of time.
African writing and publishing has been systematized to be an extension of Western or European thinking and imagination about the continent and its people.
To a large extent, an African writer is not encouraged to come up with a new variation or interpretation of what happens in Africa. He or she is not allowed to be true to self or tell their own Truth.
Over-simplistic as it may seem, I will tell you what kind of so-called African writing is encouraged, approved and promoted by mainstream publishing houses that represents foreign interests in this country.
Firstly, your perspective must uphold and promote the West as this great centre of democracy.
Secondly, this writing must feed the stereotypes and prejudices people in this great democracy hold about Africa.
Thirdly, African writing must be filled with self-hate where the chief characters are people who serve the interests of the West. Thus the story line and characterization and plot must see the characters saying: it is very good to be puppets of the West.
Thus, to a great extent, the so-called African writing and literature that we are fed tells the African Story through a colonial perspective.
The readers of this kind of literature in Africa and abroad end up believing and resigning themselves to the notion that Africa is a doomed continent. The way we look at ourselves as Africans is, in most instances, through the colonial prism and perspective.
There are countless writers whose manuscripts are declined simply because they do not fit well with the cultural expectations of white people who are more European than African in their world outlook and ideological orientation.
There are far too few writers that have tried to produce literature that is directed at African people in the townships and rural areas. But for this to be approved for publication, it had to go through so-called all-knowing readers – mostly whites people and their surrogates – who are the gatekeepers and mind controllers of what will be published and what will not be.
Now, if white people want to maintain and preserve the economic control of this country and its people, they must control what people read and experience as culture. There can be no economic control without cultural domination.
In fact, an increasing number of African intellectuals will tell you that Africans are a minority when it comes to cultural productions and practises in this country. And this includes so-called African writing.
Many of the publishing houses that have been set up in this country – just like record companies – are not here to promote and uphold African freedom and self-determination. What they produce are products that address the expectations of the so-called ‘market’ that has been designed and aligned to Western expectations. It is to keep Africans ignorant and loyal to the capitals that control everything that happens everywhere.
As a result, there has been no cultural winds of change blowing through this continent for a very long time. This is happening in a country where Africans are in the majority and have got their own unique way of looking at the world based on their experiences determined by their culture and ideological orientation.
But we do not have African so-called readers, editors and publishers who are independent enough to promote African interests and perspectives.
Seen against this background, the rejection of authentic African work – whatever that is, now – is more a rejection of work that does not fit well into the European way of looking at the world.
We have to question the underlying assumption on African writing and publishing. It is a political decision to use culture to maintain and preserve white supremacy.
The question is what is to be done for us to come with African writing, literature and publishing that our own people can identify with and relate to?
It needs to be made very clear that African writers need to be emphatic in challenging and questioning the way the system works in the continent.
Firstly, they must reject the use of so-called readers and editors who have neither understanding nor appreciation for the authentic African experience and perspective. They must demand that readers and editors must have a proven record of putting the interests of indigenous writers as a top priority. The promotion of African voices in their diversity must be the centre.
Secondly, the criteria and other standards that are to be used must be considered in their relevance to the African majority who come from an illiterate and, increasingly, depoliticized background. Thus the standards must aim at improving self-understanding and encouraging and supporting the creative efforts.
Writers are aware that these non-African readers, copy tasters and editors are part of the diversity of our culture and have contributed to the redefining of post-colonial identity. But everything and everybody must be oriented towards upholding and promoting African creativity, in its imperfection.
Finally, African writers must own their own work. In fact, they must pursue self-publishing to break the strangle hold of mainstream publishing houses.
It can be argued on different grounds that most work that largely passes as African is, in essence, the expression and articulation of Africa through the colonial prism. Therefore it is important that Africans themselves write with themselves in mind.
Many writers have read the rejection letters between the lines. There is reason to believe that some of the work could have been improved, of course. But it was largely rejected because it does not fit into the European or colonial model and expectations.
Africans are here for themselves and should not continue to succumb to the mind control of people who come from outside their lived experience.
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