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Our World Together

In a Pan-African state of mind

By Leonard Quarshie

I have been feeling nostalgic lately. Nostalgic not in a sort of having-been-there-done-that- kind of way. But in a kind of what-would- Nkrumah-think-about-this kind of way. I guess it’s because I haven’t read anything nourishing in a long time. So much is happening in the world with such speed that there is hardly time for perspective, for context, for reflection. I would be lying if I said I hunger for the works of Achebe, Awoonor, Senghor, Armah, Thiong’o and other African writers of old. But I hunger for their perspective; for the unique African sensibility they brought to things, to the events around them, to the happenings of their time. Times are different, of course.

But the Africa—whose fate they chronicled in their work and agonized over—has not changed very much. It is still very poor. It is still very dependent on others. It is still very badly-governed. It contends still with the same issues their generation wrestled with. I wonder for example, what Nkrumah would think about the impact of AIDS? Nkrumah’s warnings about neo-colonialism are well-known. But many decades later, what would he think about the state of regional integration? What would he think about Africa’s 2% share of global trade?

As I look across the continent—I see that a lot of time has passed—but the issues remain the same. We are still heavily dependent on others for sustenance, for validation, for acceptance. Our development models are still imported, unoriginal and inorganic. Yesterday’s ideas. We are still playing by other people’s rules. The themes, Achebe and others wrestled with—after the euphoria of independence—are still the headaches of our generation: the place of the African in the world; his struggles with self-governance; his experiments with development; his fears and insecurities about modernity and all that it entails; his efforts at understanding the squalor that surrounds him; his disappointments.

I think about these things quite a lot. I don’t know why. Living in the West heightens this feeling. This state of mind. Reading and watching the news about Africa can get to you. Then there is a sense of insecurity here which one cannot escape. A sense that one can wake up one day and lose all of one’s work and sweat. It’s a palpable, ever-present feeling which never goes away. No matter how successful you become, you sense very quickly that this is not the place you want to spend the last years of your life. The West is not home. Africa is home. Here you are pre-occupied with survival, with living. You have to pay the bills and make the payments. You have to make certain that you are not kicked out on the streets. You can’t go to anyone for help. You are on your own. It’s a foreign land after all. You come to realize that even your African-American brethren—the descendants of your ancestors brought here four centuries ago—still contend with the strangeness and unfamiliarity of this place. That’s when one begins to care about what happens to Africa. That’s when one begins to feel anger and resentment toward non-Africans who talk cavalierly about Africa, as if it were a child in need of a parent to instruct it. That’s when one gets tired of patronage, the snide remarks, and the nonsense on western television that passes for analysis on Africa. That’s when one gets tired of well-fed, avuncular, Western journalists—some of whom have built flourishing careers—reporting negative stereotypical stories about Africa —coming up with insane and nonsensical documentaries such as “Why is Africa poor.”

Yet when I feel this way about Africa, when I despair of its fortunes and worry about its travails, I’m always reminded of a scripture my mother used to quote when I was a child: “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”(Job 14:7-9)

There is hope for Africa. Let’s keep holding the feet of our leaders and institutions to the fire. Let’s keep demanding excellence and reject mediocrity. But let’s do it in love. Nkosi Sikeleli Africa. God bless Africa.

Leonard Quarshie is a freelance writer and a student at the University of Maryland, University College. You can reach him at ghanaleads@live.com

Quarshie, Leonard

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Self Xpression | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment