To African Excellence and Beyond

Michael Onsando
25 June ,2019

And when the time comes,

as all times do,

may we remember

that the power

came from within.

Africa’s Sun

Tetu Shani’s Africa Sun is nothing short of brilliant. A testament to African excellence through ambition and hard work, the energy he creates is electrifying. A jam, a bop, a something to play in your headphones all the way on loud as you head to do something challenging.

And that’s about all there is to say about this.

But there’s some more to say about some other things. Like how while we do the work of complaining about how badly the country is torn there is a generation of labourers dedicated to making it better. Like how the future, when it finally arrives will be populated by scores of people who tried and tried again to bring it closer so that the rest of us can see that it is beautiful.

Please don’t jealous me

  • Tetu Shani, Africa’s Sun

If you put one crab in a bucket, it can claw its way up and out – return to the wild and be free. But the circumstances change when you put a bunch of the things in a bucket. If one of them tries to climb out the rest pull it back into the bucket. What’s more, if the crab tried to climb out a second time the other crabs will gang up on the poor liberator once more and could even try to break its claws to completely hinder the process. In effect, none of the crabs end up escaping the bucket, which is great for lunch.

Not so great for the crab that chose freedom.

I keep wondering about what would happen if the crabs turned that destructive power into collaborative effort. If it would be possible for them to create a chain,  for example, and effectively get every crab out. It’s difficult to imagine the things that crabs have to overcome before they can see their fellow crab as a friend not a foe.

Kenyans are not crabs.

And I’m always wary about the things that perceive as holding us back. Is it deliberately holding up because it causes us to pause to consider? Is it deliberately holding us back if it forces us to do more in our craft? Is it holding us back if it forces us to consider the needs of our audience or if it allows our audience to express their relation to the work – even if it isn’t a linear (good or bad) relationship?

I decided Imma be me

Same when you see me,

Beard and a beanie

Kwani iko nini?

Kwani iko nini?

Blinky Bill, Kwani iko nini?

But we can be crabs. When we come up against something that is growing in ways we don’t understand we cut it down, we try to stop it, to shepherd it into the spaces we understand. Rather than expand ourselves into the space created by this new thing we insist that this thing become smaller. That it fits itself into our own ways of seeing the world rather than engage with how it is moving through the space.

But if he’s scared of me how can we be free?

I imagine that before the crabs can gain a collaborative mentality one crab would have to convince another. And the two would need to gather a third and so on and so forth until all crabs were on board. And I would like to imagine the convincing would go beyond showing the skeptical crab the logic of the plan. I imagine it would have something to do with building belief, building trust, building hope and eliminating fear. And that in order to do these things it would begin by studying the bucket, the human hand and other crabs, by having intimate knowledge of the circumstance and how to navigate it (or at least an idea). So if (and when) this labour is done and the time comes that the crabs are free and roaming the wild, I wonder if there will be space to remember that it all happened because one crab believed.

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