An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African by Robert W. July

By Robert W. July

Through the paintings of prime African writers, artists, musicians and educators—from Nobel prizewinner Wole Soyinka to names not often recognized outdoor their local lands—An African Voice describes the contributions of the arts to the fulfillment of independence for the peoples of black Africa following the second one international conflict. whereas focusing on cultural independence, those prime humanists additionally reveal the intimate connection among cultural freedom and real political financial liberty.

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With an insight beyond his years, Franklin argued that it was economic sophistication, not vaguely drawn character traits, that determined the nature of societies, and he then went on to demolish Sartre's assertion that the African Presence Africaine and the Expression of Cultural Freedom 33 intellect was intuitive by contrast to the European's rationalism. This would presuppose that Africans were incapable of abstract thinking and generalization from particulars, that they had no empirical science or scientific methodology-all belied, said Franklin, by African medicine, mineralogy, or widely admired techniques of West African bronze casting.

Rhythm plays a similar role, said Senghor. Music is not for listening. It accompanies the spoken word and the dance, converting in its rhythmic insistence prose into poetry and body movement into surreal revelation. Rhythm expresses life's vital force, Senghor concluded. Through concrete, material, sensual means, it moves from body to spirit. " "Much of this made great sense to me," acknowledged James Baldwin, although he admitted that a good deal of what he heard was beyond his experience; the only example he could think of that resembled the joyful communion of artistic expression described by Senghor was the frenetic, sometimes neurotic, spirit of American jazz.

At about the same time a heated literary debate burst forth over the validity of Negro-African writing as separate from Western literary forms. Diop himself editorialized continuously in his revue on these and allied themes-for instance, in 1955 he published an article entitled "Colonialism and Cultural Nationalism" in which he stressed the need for cultural freedom in Africa, that modern African societies might thrive through the nourishment of their own traditions, history, and culture. Diop's views on African independence came close to Senghor's Negritude, and Negritude fell under particularly heavy fire from the leftists, black as well as white.

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