If money was no object, what would you be doing with your life? If you did not have to worry about how your hypothetical future children would eat, or what your Aunty would say, or how you were going to pay the rent, what would be your reason to get up in the morning? If failure was not a possibility, how would you expend your passion? If there were no limits, what would you do with your life?
When my little sister was a kid, she wanted to be a marine biologist, hairdresser and makeup artist, all AT THE SAME TIME. Today she is about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and we are all very proud of her. At the same time I kind of miss the naïveté and optimism that would allow a little African girl, living in a landlocked country to want to be a marine biologist. When you are a kid, anything is possible. Never mind that you hate science, never mind that you have only ever seen dolphins in books and on TV, the world is your fucking oyster!
My very first ambition in life was to be a dancer for Madonna. We had a little blue tape, a pirated copy of her album “Like a Virgin” that Dad would play in the car and I knew all the words, (though not what “virgin” meant). Now I look back and I am like damn, I could have done that! Madonna is 50-something years old but she is still dancing! Instead of touring the world and popping Cristal in the club, I sit in my little office typing proposals and reports like a trained monkey.
What happens as you grow up? I ask, but I know, I know because it happened to me. You tell someone on the playground you want to be Madonna’s dancer and they laugh in your face. You ask your mom for chocolate at the supermarket and she tells you “do you know how hard I work for this money? It doesn’t grow on trees you know.”
You tell your parents you want to study art as one of your A levels, instead of biology, which you are failing anyway and are told “you’re not going to spend my school fees finger painting with your hippy drug addict teacher, you will study Biology, and you will do it well!”
You decide you’re going to break free, live your dreams and study photography and they hold an intervention on your behalf. (On TV interventions the nice mzungu family sit you down and read you letters of how much they love you, in Africa they lock you in a room and beat you until you come to your senses).
How many of us ended up studying law, accounting, business, engineering RATHER than our passion? How many of us get a little buzz in our down-belows when we read torts or write proposals?
As a working man, you finally get fed up kissing your boss’ ass and hoping to get in a car accident every weekday morning. You decide that you’re going to do it now, quit your job, go into business and selling sand to the Arabs. You write an award-winning business plan, make an appointment with the bank for a loan, and hit up all your benevolent relatives for support. Then your girlfriend misses her period and your dream flies out the window.
I have heard it suggested that imagination and creativity a privilege; that when you are worrying about your next meal you don’t have time to create the next Mona Lisa.
I say, screw that.
When you are hustling, trying to figure out how to get your next meal, figuring out how you’re going to turn that bicycle, into bread and butter, you are at your most creative.
This is something that has played out in our artistic culture a million times. How many music artists’ debut have you fallen in love with, their hard-knocked story and desperate I-just-gotta-make-it tone winning you, allowing you to relate. How many such debut albums are critically acclaimed in comparison to their sophomore effort “Just gotta make it 2; Hollywood, bitches and Cristal”.
Imagination and possibility is something that people have tried to take away from Africa. As beggars we have no right to be creative; to contribute to the cultural, economic and technological conversation going on in the world. We have been told that we are stagnant and unchanging, doing the same work as our ancestors did.
We have been told all this and we have believed it.
The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history. The African peasant, who for thousands of years have lived according to the seasons, whose life ideal was to be in harmony with nature, only knew the eternal renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words.
-Nicolas Sarkozy speaking at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop
In the face of western hegemony, booty-shaking on MTV, and porn on the internet, we cling to old ideas of what Africa used to be, even though these ideas don’t make sense, maybe never actually existed.
But if we are not creative, we are not alive. Like sharks, like languages, if we do not move we die. Young urban African professionals who are creative, and passionate about our work and lives mean economic expansion, job creation and psychological and economic independence from the West.
It means a Uganda that is growing economically and a government that is accountable to a citizenry that volunteers, contributes, is capable and critical. A Uganda in which being an artesan glass blower carries as much value as a construction worker.
This is all very well in the abstract, but what am I really asking of you? What concrete steps can I make to bring about this new me, new Uganda, new Africa, new World order?
Imagine this new world and make it happen.
- IMAGINE IT: If you are a writer, photographer, artist or social commentator, sit down and imagine this world, write about it, see it around you and take a photo of it, and submit it to Idealogue on facebook, or Vuga! Make a video and post it on your facebook and tag it Imagine Uganda. If you are from the Cape Coast then Imagine the Cape Coast.
- CREATE IT: Rediscover your passion and DO IT NOW. Incorporate it creatively in your current job, do it for free to help others or in view of building a future career of it. Become a leader in your field of choice. Be of influence. Think about how you can use your passion to contribute to your country’s development, to employ people, to educate people, to inspire others to get involved and think critically about our governance.