African Dreams & Digital Realities
‘A river does not flow without a source.’
It starts with the comforting crackle of static when the needle touches the vinyl; its warmth caresses your eardrum, quietly demanding your attention, so you pause for a moment to listen attentively. The rotation picks up pace and the rhythm begins as the needle dives deeper into the groove. A familiar melody registers in your brain. Bittersweet lyrics begin to take form as Mariam Makeba’s sultry voice croons. Mama Africa’s haunting chorus “Aluta Continua” echoes out to you; the struggle continues.
This is part of the soundtrack for the struggle –– for my parents, and for many other township kids that grew up at this time.
We can all relate.
The revolving synthetic material is filled with emancipation and the distinct symbolism of something bigger. It’s unmistakably charged with a revolution to bring about freedom, hope and a better tomorrow, inspired by our neighbours from across the border who took up arms to fight for their independence.
Historically, breaking away from the shackles of colonisation was more than a physical need but a state of mind: A pan-African collective consciousness that was prevalent from the Cape to Cairo. This had become the backdrop for the youthful minds in order to take shape and learn to mould ideas whilst crafting ingenuity.
I have come to realise the wonder years of what was our simple playtime then was more significant than that. Not waking up to the latest Hot Wheels collection or that shiny red truck you get on your birthday or Christmas was our reality. We had to make due and so we built our own cars, wire ones. The craft of making these results of circumstance was – and still is – African creativity and ingenuity.
My cousin taught me how to make my first wire car with coat hangers, electric copper wires and shoe polish cans for wheels. You had to be resourceful in finding all the materials to make it functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. The part that still fascinates me today is the engine or mechanical bit.
It was called the “mokrenko”, which in essence is the chassis and gearbox of the wire vehicle. For young impressionable minds with no engineering degrees or experience, fully functional control systems were still somehow built to allow for steering, and in the more advanced models, braking innovations similar to a full-size normal car.
This raw creativity is our default setting; making our own way comes standard. When things break, we take them apart and try to figure out what went wrong before putting them back together again. Over time, toys became newer toys while devices and appliances like Walkmans and Blu-ray players got a new lease on life.
Today, old generation smartphones and computers are being recycled and up-cycled using the very same intuition and curiosity, only this time it’s for the new generation.
The irony is how these very same young minds then grow up to struggle with maths and science in school. Could it perhaps be the way that it is taught, or that the environment for learning is not conducive to nurture their intuitive default setting further?
Time and time again, we find that some young minds prevail while others drop out of school with their talents lost, all because they’ve failed to adopt the language of problem solving. The thinking and talents that help with growth and finding a career path in any field they choose to go into.
Understandably, one can’t simply make comparisons between the seemingly simpler times and now. We have all moved to our next chapters and in this time of individual achievement and success, we cannot and should not allow it to define us. We cannot let it drown us in copious consumption that is driven by ego and a desire for instant gratification. We cannot allow it to enslave us with consumerism, which we subject ourselves to because of the comforts of having a security blanket. To do this is to fall prey to a mind-numbing drug. The addiction of affirmation through likes, favourites, retweets and trending hashtags has made us forget our ingenuity. We have led ourselves astray by starring in our very own virtual reality TV show with a scripted plot of becoming Internet famous. This distorted view of excellence masquerades as #blessed #blaxellence, and its indulgence is washed down with a tall order of corporate Kool-Aide.
Do we have to obey its directive on procedure?
Undoubtedly the significance of this exposure is to gain experience and grow your world view, but the sobering realisation of what it really means is that you are just cogs in a wheel. And its circular motion is not to be confused with a revolution. With a bad aftertaste in your mouth you start to weigh up the compromise and gravity of its results; the ambition to challenge the system you serve is lost. Once you have “#NiceLifeProblems”, why would you entertain “third or first world problems”? The hangover is this weight of the world that puts you off-balance as you try to find your way back.
‘AFRICA your time is NOW.’
More than a T-shirt Slogan
A current state of readiness with intended urgency, from getting all the experience and learning the global rules to taking up key positions of leadership. It’s time to take the lead and transfer knowledge. What qualifications and reading material is needed to further the cause?
It’s time for collective excellence; a return to the default setting, just as when you were younger and took that device apart to see the inner workings so that you can fashion it for your needs and circumstance.
Make something new and craft something better. Something Africa fit. As masters of our circumstance, which shapes our creativity, ingenuity and more importantly our resilience, our perspectives and opinions are being sought after. Sports, music, fashion, and art have flourished from embracing it. Tech is the new frontier.
We are at the crossroads of Africa and future fit. Where these paths overlap is where we need to carve our niche.
The continent is no longer dark. It’s vibrant in colour and rich in texture. Wakanda Forever is within our grasp, and this makes the future brighter than ever imagined.
“This is the most important hashtag of our lifetime.”
George Gladwin Matsheke
Founder/ Editor/ Creative Director MARVIN
A rallying cry of the Africa Rising narrative, fuelled by cultural moments and shifts such as the blockbuster release of the movie Black Panther –– an avid pursuit of the new standard for #Blaxellence.
It goes beyond the importance of representation. It is a mind-set that is bold, unapologetic and somewhat brazen. It’s the new collective consciousness, which is not political rhetoric or misguided propaganda. It is something to believe in and more importantly something tangible. A future fit African outlook that is more than IoT, it is the Internet of Everything African, making the world smaller and shaping the global view.
This perspective is important because culture does not exist in a vacuum. World events, politics, commerce, financial indicators, commodity pricing, and climate change all inform it, and the list goes on. The curiosity, ingenuity and more importantly, creativity in generating our own unique solutions are what will further our progress instead of trying to play catch-up. Technology has an important role to play in all this. Harnessing its power will require owning the means of production, as well as the entire value chain. From blockchain, drones, robotics all the way up to space programmes.
The writing is not only on the wall; it’s plotted in the stars, for an African future of makers.
A river does not flow without a source. With all these endless streams of innovation, Africa has been primed for our true form of creativity and ingenuity, just in a new way.