The villages that raise us also give us stories, it’s up to us which ones we tell

Hillary Keni-Witsani
Hillary Keni-Witsani

In the past 12 months alone, the president of the most powerful country on earth called African countries ‘shit hole countries’, Beyonce incorporated African dress and references both in visuals and in arguably the greatest Coachella performance of all time.

By Hillary Keni-Witsani

Countless US and US based artists from Drake to Rihanna to Donald Glover incorporated Afro-beats sounds and African dance styles to varying degrees and got critically lauded and financially rewarded for it.

Africa is at the centre of the pop conversation right now, even as refugees continue getting into rickety boats heading to an increasingly right wing Europe and the people who owe their skin colour to the continent continue facing a hatred that is difficult to comprehend or stop.

Fact of the matter is, the people telling the African story have no capacity to tell all of it because they are not fully connected to the everyday rhythms of the continent. The
gwaragwara and the infatuation with Afro-beats are passing fads, but Africans are permanently here and need to tell their stories to a world now paying attention to more than just images of war and famine.

As a person living on the continent, how do you feel? Are things as hopeless as they look from the outside? If they really are, how do you figure we can fix that? You dance right? And get carefree and possessed and throw out the greatest body movements the world has ever seen right? You feel pain too right? Soul deep pain, sorrow and scars that take forever to heal right? Why hide it? How do you move from that and heal? Does the world know?

The world might take your dances and sounds and cadences just like you do theirs but they will never feel your pain and tell it right, they will never contort like you do when Friday night comes and troubles get left home and joints get extra loose.

There are over 50 countries in Africa and millions of black people all over the world from Brazil to Canada to the Caribbean, and millions of stories to share. Tell yours, the attention spans might be short but there is enough space in the world for what you have to say.

I recently told mine. It looks at the family unit; broken homes and missing faces. It looks at the neurosis within and sees pain and fear and joy and hope. The next one will be different, but this one is what I need you and the world to hear right now.

Hillary Keni-Witsani is a Zimbabwean alternative folk musician committed to inserting African ideas into every black home, one album at a time. He has a recently released critically acclaimed album – File 51, that can be streamed or purchased on the link below.


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