Cultural Exploitation Without Ownership

by Thulasizwe Somdyala

Introduction

You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements, then it’s as if they never existed.

You can add this to the long list of Hitler’s failures; he tried to take something that can never be his. The story of lives painted on canvas or hedged in stone.

The above quotes are from Frank Stokes (George Clooney) from the movie, The Monuments Men. A group of art crusaders with capes on on a mission to save heritage from the ruins of war. Described in the movie as the greatest treasure hunt in western history, (Africa? The Americas? That’s not the greatest treasure hunt? Aight) Hitler planned to wipe out the existence of his enemies by stealing their heritage which is globally preserved in art, leaving his victims with no sense of -ness; no sense of who they are but lost souls with no map of home. Resulting in a slave who does not have an identity; no roots to trace their branches back to nor soil to call their own and so their seeds hardly grow. The exploitation of culture without ownership is what I will be engaging with and how it is the diagnosis for every African/Black problem we faced with.

Identity

colorful-part-4-modern-art

An identity is how someone expresses who they are. In society every form of expression has gone through the process of commoditisation, packaged and sealed to be sold as a certain percentage of your identity. The clothes you identify with, music you support, food you eat, mode of transport you use; basically everything. Thus in a commoditised world, ownership of culture is the greatest commodity, your ability to sell and keep the culture’s authenticity lies with the gatekeeper. As Blacks we have been stripped and locked up for so long that we do not know how to open our own doors anymore. There is a huge investment in foreign products and a non-existent state of development and support of local culture. Let me rewind for a minute and progress to where we are now where liberal Blacks keep selling us as cheap labour because they do not wish to conserve and enrich who they are (I am actually quite mad about this).

Centuries Before

There was a time when we had our own sense of life, cultivated by the environment we called home and strengthened by our ability to survive and master the environment. That brought certain norms and principles that illuminated our strengths and characterised our structure and thinking. Foreign men then came with external forces whose power conquered us and made us into side cultural projects, starting the slate clean by destroying our beliefs, destroying our language, destroying our women and theft of our homes and wealth. What resulted was a slave with no identity but a new foreign concept of life. They were oppressed by reformations imposed of learning and unlearning guised as civilisation and getting cultured into something new that they should aspire to become but will never be. So what was created in Black culture was self-hate and what ingrained that state of mind was loss of ownership; we stopped owning ourselves. A submissive nature was fashioned by the new environment of slavery, where agony was compensated by the idea of being happy with the little you received; the “it could be worse” rhetoric of submissiveness found its roots. This foreign culture of domination lay as fundamental thinking of a capitalist and liberal thinking society. The principles of exploitation of the majority and the protection of the minority, maximisation of profit resulting in the need of cheap labour, the opening of the market with no protection of local produce so the powerful can scramble for a share in the faux name of competition. Neo-colonisation/slavery= capitalism.

Bringing the Concepts Closer Home

The House Slave and Master (Django Unchained)
The House Slave and Master (Django Unchained)

The difference between the exported slave into The Americas and those stationed at home, is that the African slave has a map of home and can still root their existence free from slavery. However, since a slave is a slave, the mentality and ways to puppet the show remain the same across both sides of the Atlantic. During the unmasked period of slavery, Negroes were picking cotton in the field for an establishment they had no relation of meeting the same end. They were merely accessories, something you forget and replace- whose value is really measured in how they make you look but there are a hundred accessories so you can dispose and try a new one as you please. But at times you find one accessory that you really like and you try to mould it into your outfit, you see something different in it; “it’s not like the others,” you say to yourself. Those accessories hardly leave the house, you afraid they could get lost in the field.

The analogy of the accessory illustrates what a House Negro is; works with the outfit, different from the Field Negroes but they share a common struggle of lack of ownership and a common humanity (they are both still accessories). Nothing much has changed from those days, history often repeats itself rather than pull stunts. What we have now is a case of neo-slavery led by multi-national corporations (the West) and Black liberals (House Negroes). In the same vein that our kings sold men and women into slavery when Whites could not go on capture sprees (modern day economic assassins and coup sponsoring), our presidents and their administrations continue to sell us off as cheap labour to foreign companies they allow to setup shop in our land without enforcing local ownership and local beneficiation of goods. Workers continue to slave nine-to-five with no relation of a common end; milking, milking away the African cash cow. The collaborated effort of cultural exploitation without ownership between our liberal democratic governments and the West lays root to every form of bondage we experience. We have no foot to stand on, no authority, no voice.

Ownership (Home)

Ownership allows you to keep the original idea in its truest form, create checks and balances of authenticity, market it in its truest light and when sold it illuminates the idea and identity of the owners and benefits its subjects that it underlines. In South Africa (name never changed to Azania, we still occupied fam) we do not own and have no control of our sovereign state. We more like a looters for all club and an advanced refreshment station (the Chinese government is building their own city here now, nci nci). There is this propaganda that has been enshrined about our need for foreign investors to dictate the terms of acquiring a product they do not own, putting those needs God over the interests of local investment and products that should be aided and used to trade across the proposed global village.

I had a friend stay with me from Germany on his visit to South Africa and in conversation it came up that if you unemployed in Germany the state takes care of you, €4 000 (R52 000) to sustain a humane livelihood per month. I was in awe, not shocked though, the thought that stayed in mind was, “Damn, that’s a really good salary here.” While showering I noticed he used Nivea products too but his shampoo was written in German which made me wonder about the origins of Nivea, which I soon found out is a German company. Then everything clicked. Reason their government can ball out on their citizens is because I am out here supporting their lifestyles. I began to realise that most of the things I own are foreign products like we some form of dumping ground and I realised the sole purpose of my capital is to sponsor how good someone else looks without the beneficiation of my own look. Eish, I am still an accessory.

A pawn’s only purpose is completely suicidal –Terrence Thornton

The deeper I looked; I found the biggest problem is we do not own our education and the principles of a cultural side project are still protected and maintained. We still taught from a perspective of the coloniser, being fed oppressive and inferior outlooks of who we are; crusaders who are trying to save our heritage from the ruins of white supremacy (racism) are marginalised in the peripherals. The means of production of knowledge is not owned by us, halting the re-root to whom we are. The laws that govern us are Roman-Dutch, leaving the cultural beliefs that constitute engagement amongst each other to the same people that enslaved us. Again customary law is marginalised in the peripherals, left undeveloped to the modern climate resulting in a state where there is a void of an African identity in a system that is managing the African environment. Logically, if we still based on law that was never meant to serve us, how can we be protected, practise and develop our culture? I could go on for a minute; basically the entire system corrupt. We plugged in the matrix of liberal and capitalist ambitions which undermine who we are; the communalist nature of African thinking does not feature in our lifestyles and curriculum reason ubuntu is now baseless and has no feet to walk with in our society. Same reason when I am writing this article, Microsoft Word underlines Xhosa words red; it is not ours. It does not understand who we are. With the dots connected it is easier to comprehend how we have a “me-me” generation of Blacks who pursue individualistic causes away from the fibre of umntu ngumntu ngabantu, how African humanity is defined- we have lost our humanity and dignity- yep, we do not own that either. We only come together in the exploitation of each other in the liberal name of competition and march forward to serve foreign ideals of what we will never be.

Conclusion

Retrieved from http://www.africanholocaust.net/
Retrieved from http://www.africanholocaust.net/

Instead of worrying about how white people portray us and concerned how we portrayed to people who still continue to preserve the institutions that enslave us- let us build our own. Let us build our own schools that teach who we are, controlling the truth and authenticity and liberate our curriculum from the chains of colonial White thinking. Let us build modern thatch roof houses, modern African architecture and be proud of our homes. Let us develop our arts and culture; music, food, clothing, fine arts- African stories must be put forward in every medium of art- let us progress it and trade it as an authentic product with other global citizens. Let us own our media, a powerful educational tool that is used currently to maintain racism and inferior complexes, again, let us tell our story. Let us own our minerals and resources, create our own products to trade with and not merely use labour as our sense of wealth/worth. Black liberals are probably the most advanced and ingenious Trojan Horses ever created, let us free our brothers and sisters from their chains of self-hate and build together; we all we have. The Western modern world was built by our labour- blood, sweat and tears- as much as we should lay claim to everything, let us build our own.

He who feeds you, controls you. –Thomas Sankara

Hunger is not loyal.

 

Shout out to Ian Mangenga for the edits, I see you.

The Realest