Poet and spoken word performer JJ Bola responds to Ben Okri’s article in The Guardian on the mental tyranny keeping black writers from greatness. Whilst acknowledging the value of Okri’s argument, Bola takes to task what he sees as a multitude of assumptions and omissions. Discussing everything from the lack of diversity in the publishing industry to the orientalist notion “that expression of art pertaining to suffering and heaviness is unique or more natural to the African experience,” this is a must-read response to a must-read article. Below is an excerpt and a link to the original.
Perhaps, the reason why many Black/African writers feel compelled to tackle issues such as slavery, poverty and racial injustice, – aside from the fact that these issues still exist today in the Sudans, the shanty towns of Brazil or slums of South Africa and in towns like Ferguson in the United States – is because so much of the narrative that exists is comparable to such Django-esque literature, that is to say superficial self-gratified cathartic entertainment, that so much more of the true story remains to be told. Furthermore, when is any subject matter ever completed to the point that artists must move on from it? How many times had love already been written about by the time that Pablo Neruda began crafting his masterpieces?