“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
— Bishop Desmond Tutu
“Everything that we have been looking for has already found us. It is already waiting within us.”
— Michael Brown, South African author of The Presence Process
This penetrating assertion on the Pilgrimages website caught my attention today and it couldn’t have been more timely. One of my reasons for creating this blog is to share my ongoing education on the continent I call home. Something somebody once said to me will always remain fresh in my mind. I was pursuing a course in African Studies at the time when a Kenyan lady, in Nairobi, asked me why I would take up such a course of study, being that I am an African. There was so much I wanted to say to her – so many questions in response! How much did she really know about the vast Africa herself? Especially in comparison to her knowledge about other parts of the world – distant parts that she may never even see firsthand. How much did she really know about her own history – and from whose mouth or textbook did she consume that information?
What that moment evokes is how easy it is to take for granted the things that are closest to you. And yet, it is those very things that are probably most valuable to you and most necessary for your well-being and growth. Obliviousness of this may indeed be a significant barrier to contentment and progress. This is a theory that I would like to explore: the connection between self-knowledge, self-love and self-improvement, in the context of being African.
As part of this Afri-love journey, one of the things to look out for on the blog is an investigation of the continent from perspectives other than those we get from our inherited assumptions or manipulated media. In turn, will be celebrating each country on the continent with an insight into the spirit of the nation (and we warmly welcome all insider knowledge and ideas!).
The Pilgrimages project resonates with these aims. Created by The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists, the project will be celebrating Africa’s first World Cup by sending 13 African writers to 13 cities where they will each write a book of non-fiction that will be published worldwide. In true Afri-love spirit, Pilgrimages takes ownership of that powerful piece of education: the travel narrative:
“At a moment in time when the whole continent is more visible to its inhabitants and to the rest of the world than at any other since independence, Pilgrimages will reintroduce Africans to the literary world in the same form that so many outside writers have employed to create a distorted idea of us to the world.” (Pilgrimages website)
I’m sure Our Sister Killjoy would be proud.
Illustration: Pilgrimages participating cities. © Lulu Kitololo