The African Renaissance and the Prophetic Genius of Mazisi Kunene

Published Date: 
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Publication Name: 
The Thinker

Mazisi Kunene’s art may thus be redeeming in its reaffirmation of the centrality of African forms of expression as the instrument required to transcend and to rise above the subjugation of that universe and its peoples.

By Ademola Araoye

The imposing genius of Mazisi Kunene is in forcing an acknowledgement of the solidity of our own greatness in spite of ourselves. The transcendental, transformatory and emancipatory character of the corpus of his works assures this. These works, most exemplified by the epics “Emperor Shaka the Great” and the “Anthem of the Decade”, the primary references in this appreciation, are best situated as a redeeming defiance of entrenched epistemological foundations of a hostile social universe – this in an age and era when the validated fad was the instigated self-repudiation of the very quintessence of our black humanity.

Central to and included in these inspired self-repudiated essences were the cosmology and understandings of the self in all its expressive forms, and in this particular instance, the language and art forms of the subjugated. Repudiating the grundnorms of this hostile clime and era and sacrificing the immediate and immense dividends of capitulation to hegemonic forces and their preferred forms of expressions, Mazisi Kunene’s work languished in the obscurity that befell all other expressions outside the hegemonic genre that by their mere presence sought to validate their own authenticity on their own terms. This included narratives of African peoples rendered in their original languages.

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