A couple of weeks ago we hosted Drums and Dialogue in order to facilitate and start conversation about the representation of Africa in the media. To even think about articulating the energy that was in the room, the conversations that took place and the genuine love everyone had for each other would be a task I don't think I am qualified for. Although it has been a couple of weeks we are still reeling from that day and the energy has kept us going and has guided the direction we will be taking. A direction to stand in the gap using the creative industries as they are such a powerful tool to dismantling the stereotypes that have stood in the way of equal participation in society. One of the things I learnt from the day was instead of being reactive we must be proactive in representing ourselves and using our platforms and tools to do so. In order to do that we need to begin with awakening African consciousness amongst us and connecting as brothers and sisters, with the guidance of the spirit of Ubuntu.
The day was started by a presentation about the role the media plays in perpetuating the stereotypes of people of African descent by almost constantly having an unbiased representation that is one sided. That was followed by an introduction to the music from the African continent, showcasing the diversity of the sound, that is as diverse as its people. After sampling the different sounds from the continent including the sounds of Beyonce (Grown woman samples beats from West Africa and has a griot chanting when she is breaking it down), the panel of speakers was introduced.
What we found magical about the speakers was how everyone connected and was so open with sharing their stories and how music has helped them as an outlet for their emotions and feelings. A bit of debate was sparked when questions about what role culture plays in guiding their music, but it was one of those eye opening debates that people crave on the daily.
Before we stopped for lunch we applied participatory communication methods of mapping. The purpose of mapping is to give everyone the chance to participate and share their thoughts without them being directed. As the workshop was for the people and created with extreme love for the people, we strongly believed that each person should have a chance to express their thoughts, emotions and feelings without the guidance of anyone. As part of the mapping exercise we asked the question "What do they say about us". The question was to bring forth all the negative things that had been said to us and about us because of our skin colour and place of origin. We wanted this question to be addressed before lunch so we could get the bad shit out of the way. I remember saying "this is the last time we are ever going to talk about the negative things, we have grown up with these negative associations and we no longer need them. We are putting them on the wall to get it out of our system. In addition to that I don't ever want to hear anyone in this room referring to themselves using any of those terms or talking to each other in a manner that brings each other down". When we think about it words are so powerful, they can shape one's thoughts and perceptions, so why should we refer to ourselves in that manner or bring each other down when we know we are above that? As each person, including the panelists and facilitators took a pen, I blinked back tears. I could not believe that we had filled up an entire wall plus more with negative words, I could not believe that these things had been said about someone and above all I was touched that even through all the negative words, people were still soldering on and rising above it. As the words were been written I noted that we all had so much in common, that our struggles, although we rarely share it, is the same. All we need to do is turn to each other and hold each other's hands and support each other.
After lunch, we got down to what the dialogue was about: to use our voices to talk about us and how we see ourselves without the assistance of stereotypes. We grabbed our markers and got to writing, I was full of joy and laughter as I read "melanin on fleek"! The best thing was the wall of positivity was bigger and had much more than the wall of negativity, suck on that stereotypes. After we had filled the walls with positive words that we promised to always use in our vocabulary, the groups split in to two. One group was led by Mabingo on how to play the drums and my goodness, sorry to the yoga treaty upstairs that was touched by the vibrancy of the beat of the drum. The other group sat down and wrote pieces about how they saw themselves using the wall of positivity as their inspiration. After 45 minutes the groups swapped.
Then the mic came out and it was time for each person to step up and share what they wrote. It is one thing to write down how you feel but there is something about stepping up and saying it. The pieces were powerful, so so powerful! In a couple of weeks we will be publishing them as we are currently putting them together for the next project (we will be sharing shortly). We then recorded the pieces, the drumming and the beat that was created by Munashe to create some magic.
As the day came to an end we danced, laughed and didn't want to go home. All we can say is this is the beginning of dialogue that will help us to not only express ourselves but aid with us unashamedly being ourselves. For we are Africa, we are the embodiment of the spirit of Ubuntu and we are love. Right now we are in the process of editing the song, editing the pieces so everyone is rightly credited for their writing and working with Notable pictures to have the document on television screens soon. We are also working on part two of the Dialogue series and we would love to have everyone in attendance. More information about everything coming soon.
Love & light,