Africans do read!

Africans do read!

Of the way of the world, many shall spend a large part of their lives trying to figure it out, and the many events that shall come to unfold are but just a singular occurrence among the many one shall get to see.
The truth is that we are not given 360° vision, and this means that our observations cannot often cover the full circle unless we give ourselves time to pause and analyse the varying realities and phenomena occurring in front of our rested gaze.

Aural, visual, olfactory, physical, and gustatory, the manner and pattern of that which is unfolding in front of, within and or without the scope of one’s eyes, ears, mouth, skin, and tongue is through pausing and observing processed in the mind.
At this point in time, there are no rules that apply, only the observation of that whose occurrence is a continuing affair. It is in a moment of repose, rest and relaxation that one can truly sense the world because there is little that disturbs the mind’s inner faculty termed as judgment or the ability to draw conclusions and to make decisions on what to do, where to go, and when to go with regard to that which is occurring.

We can reach truly beneficial decisions if we detach from the grind for a while (if only for a short while) dependent on the number of commitments that have one go to work, put in some strain at given points, and have to attend to some responsibility one cannot escape.
There is always some inner instinct in many of us to reach a certain level of comfort, and this is expressed as evidence in the many wishes, aims, goals, and dreams many want to reach as is heard, seen, tasted, felt, and smelt in the world around us.

Despite the many differing opinions on what one should do to keep in touch with the world, there will always be the difference: that which grants each and every living and inanimate thing big or small its own uniqueness and commonality with the rest of the world. This is what should be acknowledged by everyone to avoid unwarranted discomfort due to surprise, sudden shock, denial, or ignorance.

Understand always that there will be something different to come across with each passing moment, acknowledge its passing, its advent, and its presence in those moments when one can forget about the grind going on in the world around, if only for an ordinal period.
There is the reality of the world; this is the reality of the world: rest awhile and reset the machine from time to time so that the understanding of the difference can remain clear at all times.
Singing, reading, ‘playing’, storytelling through act, sightseeing, and many such other activities of leisure and relaxation help one to reach the state of mind where one can fully appreciate and acknowledge the differences in the world around.

The ones in the quest for knowledge know the necessity of repose, however long or temporary such a point in time or moment may be. Music, literature, or drama can serve the purpose by being avenues down which one can walk or run to reach a comfortable enough state of repose to muse and to rethink the patterns of thought and the manner of execution of tasks related to the constantly revolving world and its realities unfolding in a progressive or sometimes regressive continuum.
It is perhaps likely that it is only when one is listening to or watching some musical performance that they can think straight, that it is only when one is reading a certain kind of literature on a given subject that they begin to understand.

It is not only when one is engaged in leisure activities that they can find their repose for even under the tedious torment of the toil, some individuals actually find their rest from the world and can think on it and its unfolding trends from the point of view of the detached: a view which Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hakagure expresses as consulting the ‘advisor’.
In short, one should afford one’s self moments of rest, become detached for a short while from the world if the space within which they are in cannot give them enough peace to think on what to, how to do it, and when to do it. Tsunetomo posits that:

When one is not capable of true intelligence, it is good to consult with someone of good sense. An advisor will fulfil the Way when he makes a decision by selfless and frank intelligence because he is not personally involved.

True intelligence means that one knows and understands their goals and objectives enough to follow them through to the end. Without this mental commitment to the task, existence loses meaning and one is forced to go back to the drawing board and to recharge. Many follow the leisure pattern of recharging and others still work or read to gain their bearings. Reading offers the best route because it presents the scenario where one can read on the characters and their lives from the point of view of the outsider, to mull on them, and then to point out useful elements they can inculcate or adopt in their lives and lifestyles.

Upon gaining new insights, one automatically changes their way concomitant to the goals they have, and it is found only in reading in the solitude of the space it is done in.
The authors on the continent have for the longest time offered us the best avenue for repose in literature, film, and other arts or media through the works they have penned. I have always been one to dig my face in the works of my preceding authors to get an understanding of how the world around us has evolved.
This is due to the fact that the works they have penned are to a large extent the covering of events that occur in the many different communities on the continent across different eras in continuing history.

From Frantz Fanon to Ngugĩ, Mungoshi to Dangarembga, Rotini to Soyinka, Achebe to Camus, Mofolo to Sekese, DCT Bereng to Z. D. Mangoaela, and others, there has always been a message that anyone can read to understand why and how the world pans out.
The stories and their characters are always in one or another way similar to the story of the one reading it, and this means that one can relate to them and adopt certain meanings found if one bothers to read in between the lines.

The normal speak is that we Africans do not read, but this view may perhaps be one-sided, that is, one of the realities could merely be in the fact that readers have differing manners of reading and understanding events in the world due to the different customs, tradition, cultures and circumstances they grow under termed as socialisation.
Our manners stem from this intricate process that is termed socialisation, and how we are socialised depends more on the majority rather than the minority.
The minority however small still adds up the fine details as to how one can go through day-to-day living: for in society, the big and the small have their own and individual element of significance to contribute in the makeup of a character.

The assumption is that the average character on the continent does not read enough, but close analysis soon reveals that the average character does read, if only in a manner different from the usual and the common. Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks attests to the reality of the reader understanding that which has been written. Perhaps not reading the western way is just evidence that there are other manners of communicating the African reader uses that are different from the usual and the conventional way the West reads and understands the world. To support this argument Fanon posits that:

Every dialect is a way of thinking, Damourette and Pichon said. And the fact that the newly returned Negro adopts a language different from that of the group into which he was born is evidence of a dislocation, a separation.

One cannot just make a sweeping and generic conclusion that Africans do no read, they just have a manner of reading that is different from the usual.
The average African’s understanding of the ‘now’ is different from those in other regions and time zones in the world, the assumption that they do not read is just often the result of the view and analysis of the outsider commenting or attempting to understand the inside without actually bothering to enter and understand it from within its confines.
The argument that we do not read is therefore based on a misguided premise of one that speaks without first experiencing that which they make an opinion on. This view is common and has sometimes even been inculcated into the minds of the Africans themselves despite clear evidence that it is not so.
The view is just a sure sign of the last dregs of colonialism that sadly was allowed to pass from one generation to the next through common-speak. Victim to the untruth is the African that listens to this assumption without analysing its true intent and purpose.

There is simply no way one can understand any phenomena without giving it full attention for a given period of time. That the world is as it stands at this present point may have its roots in the past that occurred and not the kind of past many imagine it to be, for this imaginative path is in blank terms the result of someone’s thoughts that are prone to self-interest than the interests of the community at large.
Divide and rule as that brought by colonialism inculcated this pattern of behaviour, thought, and act in the African individual that came across it in any of the different locations the era landed them in.

The city smart-boy came back home to the village with tales of the city and recounted them to the village peers with gusto, and they took what he told as the reality in the cities.
Whether the city the teller is recounting of is just a halfway dorpie/town does not matter, the story has been told and heard by the audience who themselves go on to tell to others that were not there.

What kind of story shall it be if it goes on to cover a large audience? It becomes the popular story that soon adopts varying versions to be recounted in differing audiences from the various communities resident on this vast continent.
Writers on the continent have written, and their works have gone on to be adapted into different media for consumption by the different audiences. The only catch is that they are told in an outside voice or language thus forcing the audience to interpret.

Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s 2013 address at Makerere University touches on the problem of having to read in a foreign language on internal matters that affect the African citizen.
Africans are said not to read of books because they deliver a kind of ‘knowledge’ that is delivered in languages that are foreign to the ordinary man and woman that form the core of the entity termed as society or community.

The need arises that the writers of the continent begin to question this aspect where the children of the continent are forced to gather knowledge through third-party translations of the original language and not in their aboriginal mother tongue. Ngũgĩ poses the assertion that:
What we can question is the fact that our various fields of knowledge of Africa are in many ways rooted in the entire colonial tradition of the outsider looking in, gathering and coding knowledge with the help of native informants, and then storing the final product in a European language for consumption by those who have access to it.
In other words, we still collect intellectual items and put them in European language museums and archives and people have to dig into those languages in order to access knowledge about themselves.

It cannot be said that Africans do not read because they do not look into books the same way those in the West or the East do. The fact of the matter is that far often than seldom, the average scholar first has to struggle with another culture’s language before they deal with the inner or core ramifications of their mother tongue.
By the time they get to the gist of what is being told, they are tired due to the struggle with a language that changes with every turn in their absence and without their prior knowledge.
We do read, but I guess we enjoy reading material that is in a language we understand enough to read in between the lines, that is, in a language from which we can draw our meanings from decisively.

Fail we shall as a continent if the denigration of our aboriginal languages goes on and new languages from lands foreign to us are deified and then imposed on the children of the masses who are in actual fact the continent’s future.
English is enough as a second language, we can competently read between the lines when we deal with its texts. Let us read between the lines.

By;Tšepiso S Mothibi

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