thirty years ago

‘. . . . I heard him complain that an African writer was expected to write only about Africa, and advocate the removal of such prefixes as ‘Irish’ and ‘black’ from the substantive ‘writer.’ He spoke of himself collecting prizes in London while his people were being killed in Zimbabwe . . . the whole scene was not pretty, but it was certainly serious.’

How little things change. African writers are still expected to write only about Africa (and often they are expected to write about Africa in a particular kind of way) just as, I might add, African journalists are expected to report only on Africa. What a bloody shame that too many African journalists compound this by promoting the view that only they should report Africa. For this leads us all to inevitably promote the idea that if they only write or report Africa that they are at once confined to that continent, which also serves to promote the idea of the continent being a unified country or nation. Which is absurd.

So it’s so good to read these words, that, ‘It is important to insist upon your right to go off on a tangent. Your right to put the spanner in the works. Your right to refuse to be labelled and to insist on your right to behave like anything other than what anyone expects. Your right to simply say no for the pleasure of it. To insist on your right to confound all who insist on regimenting human impulses according to theories psychological, religious, historical, philosophical, political, etc. . . . Insist upon your right to insist upon your right to insist on the importance, the great importance of whim.’

I wish I’d met this man, or interviewed him at least. I wish I wish.