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There are many ways to read the writings of Frantz Fanon and since his death scholars have debated how he arrived at some of his conclusions and whether they were grounded in his own personal experience, the experience of the colonized, or rather, the fictional collective experience of the colonized. Though these debates are still yet unresolved, it seems fair to say that his writings, whether grounded in fact or fiction, resonated with millions of people all over the world. His analyses on the process of colonization and namely the complete destruction of indigenous culture illustrate his understanding that imperialism is a destrcutive evil. Though this is an obvious statement to make today, Fanon scrutinized the colonial system for inventing a false pre-colonial history, ultimately subjugating not only the peoples of Africa, but more importantly the minds of the colonized. In his writings about overcoming colonization, Fanon stresses the importance of espousing a rejuvenated, organic, indigenous culture. Responding to his contemporaries who insisted on an incorporation of European culture into African culture, Fanon advocates a complete rejection of European culture and a refocusing on African themes for cultural development. When analyzing some of the texts from Pan-African conferences in the late 1950‟s and early 1960‟s, it is possible to see how some leaders of emerging African states also understood culture as an integral aspect to Independence and development of a truly autonomous state. Nearly every resolution from a major conference incorporates a rededication to cultural institutions and learning so that emerging African states would not succumb to a neocolonialism but would rather break free from the psychological colonialism imposed on them. Examining culture as a method to true Independence illustrates Fanon‟s foresight into overcoming neocolonialism and how his contemporaries incorporated his analysis on cultural autonomy into their own governmental or intergovernmental policies. Chester J. Fontenot describes Fanon‟s analysis of cultures, writing “Fanon distinguishes between an open and a closed culture in his analysis of the process of colonization. An open culture is one which has been allowed to develop from its own potential, like a growing organism, without being artificially slowed in one direction or another by an external culture. This open culture is an indigenous entity which is capable of many different directions and possibilities. The important thing is that the indigenous culture must be allowed to determine its own goals based on its traditional past.” Fontenot is explaining that Fanon understood this to be the natural progression of healthy cultures. A healthy culture would be one that was not prohibited from expressing itself or which was not severely altered because of external forces. In the case of Africa, slavery and subsequently colonialism prove to be the events that stifle the development of an open culture. Fontenot continues, “In contrast, a closed culture…has been forcefully altered by external means. The problem with a closed culture is that it is, for all intents and purposes, incapable of organic growth. Its options have been limited by corruption of its natural order.” The logical extension of this is that the colonial system has created closed African cultures. By disrupting the natural evolution of power and culture, African cultures were destroyed. Therefore, when the Colonial Powers sought to create a myth “that Africans were a people without a history; people for whom time stood still; people who had no writing and who had invented nothing; people outside the march of human progress” it was easy for them to perpetuate this because of the centuries of damage that Europeans had already caused to African culture through trade interactions, and specifically slave raiding and slave trading, as this entire system shifted the
This designation here is meant to suggest that when the open culture of Europe imposes itself on the forcefully closed culture of Africa. Fanon implores Africans to take the issue at utmost importance. colorless. Elsewhere in Black Skin. rootless – a race of angels. he also imposes a psychological condition of inferiority upon the native. amusing himself to the oppressed one.” The insinuation of the words “tearing away” is that is must be done completely. one understands Fanon‟s assertions that the Colonized “hurls himself into the culture which is imposed on him” after being stripped of any original identity and culture. writing. On the contrary. without a horizon. men of culture take their stand in the field of history. Again.” By committing himself to cultural development as a means of Independence. the only way to become truly Independent is to overcome European cultural subjugation. Fanon elaborates on his open-closed culture hypothesis by discussing what occurs when a member of a closed culture encounters a member of an open culture. Not only is he able to physically overwhelm the native. stateless. and abandoned his [the African] cultural furms. Therefore. hurls himself into the culture which is imposed upon him. the physical structures of the colonial regime will fall because they cannot outlast the will of the Natives on their own land. Once recognizing the bond between Independence and cultural autonomy. he writes. Stressing this importance. for all native cultures are today developing under the peculiar influence of the colonial. Fanon identifies that colonialism is so powerful because of cultural subjugation. to what had historically been the weaker tribes along the coast. While the politicians situate their action in actual present day events. is however necessary. colonialism is phrased as utterly destructive of pre-colonial culture. semi-colonial or para-colonial situation.Sahelian balance of power in West Africa that had been in place for centuries. Maintaining that native culture was obliterated by interaction with Europeans. Aime Cesaire.” Both anti-colonialists express the curtailing of native culture and its impending development as being intricately connected to colonial oppression and dependent on colonialism‟s complete defeat in order to bloom to its fullest potential. the effect is that “Having judged. with the energy and tenacity of a shipwrecked man. he insists that they were obliterated. painful and difficult though it may be. he uses this conception to ground a definition of the experience of colonization. If it is not accomplished there will be serious psycho-affective injuries and the result will be individuals without an anchor. “This tearing away [from the Culture of the Colonizer]. his way of sitting. as a superior being. “…the demand for a national culture and the affirmation of the existence of such a culture represent a special battlefield. otherwise a form of neocolonialism. Fanon attributes this development to his open-closed culture hypothesis. Fanon‟s mentor. whether we like it or not. through “logically inferiorising them [the subjugated] through and through” the Colonizer achieves a double victory. is one "in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality" (18). White Masks. A colonized people. if not millennia. summarizes the problem. This is just another phase in the war on culture that Fanon suggests the Colonial Powers exercised in order to destroy native culture. thereby justifying his right to rule. Describing the extent that overcoming foreign cultural subjugation must be accomplished. This process is the complete destruction of the native culture. we cannot pose the problem of native culture without at the same time posing the problem of colonialism.” Therefore. Neil Lazarus explains Fanon: Fanon does not say that pre-colonial customs were suppressed under colonialism or that they went into decline. and that this obliteration was instantaneous. Fanon reflects. or in his words “serious psycho- . his language. Then. condemned. his diet. reposing. his sexual behavior. he writes. “In other words. laughing.
Following several Asian and African joint conferences. will take all measures in our respective countries to ensure that such studies are correctly orientated.. Furthermore. students. though this was not as successful as the simpler task of regenerating an organic native culture. Fanon‟s ideology also provides a pathway towards preventing forms of neocolonialism. we will endeavor to promote and facilitate the exchange of teachers. The Declaration of that Conference reads. in a sense. In calling for a complete separation of cultures. Considering that Fanon so clearly expresses his opinion that native culture is vital to complete Independence from the grips of colonial domination. Most notable are the ways his thoughts appear in international documents. which state a vision for the future of African statehood. can only occur by a complete shedding of European culture and adoption of a single-minded consciousness. Fontenot identifies how Fanon incorporated this into his own life. By retaining a cultural connection with the European power. mental liberation.affective injuries. . (581) The statement here is clear: African states will work together to regenerate an African culture. writing. Fontenot writes. the Native would possess a double-minded consciousness. …in furtherance of our social and cultural aspirations. At this point. further spurring revolution amongst those who read his works. will encourage and strengthen studies of African culture. Fanon overcomes what Tony Martin describes as Fanon‟s perception of “the greatest danger threatening Africa was not colonialism and its derivatives. Owens Moore furthers this point. "The goal of a singleminded consciousness would be to obtain mental liberation. Changing his approach to psychology would help him concretize the call for a neo-traditional African culture.” While Fanon had been trained and schooled in colonial or European schools. Professor T. his shift from the colonizer‟s Eurocentric methods to the colonized Afrocentric „nonmethods‟ signifies his movement towards revolution and development of an organic African culture. sporting events.” will remain and leave the Natives “without an anchor” for their own cultural development. the Native would have to identify what consciousness or identity is more quintessentially himself. history and geography in the institutions of learning in the African States. Fanon analyzed his own life and saw that the true regeneration of African culture will only be attained if he applies such principles to his professional work. namely leaders of independent African states.” Moore discusses double-minded and single-minded consciousness that Fanon often alludes to. What is more interesting is how Fanon‟s ideas manifest themselves into the African personalities of his contemporaries. Nearly every conference discusses the Algerian Revolution but for the most part sympathizes and lends support to the Revolution Fanon is actively engaged in. professors. exhibitions. it is interesting to compare Fanonian ideology to the Pan-African conferences that occurred during the period of African Independence. At some point. symbolic of his conscious movement from the tendency toward identification with and assimilation into European culture to the urge to assert uniqueness as one of African descent. or overcoming European cultural and psychological subjugation. Thus. etc.” Fanon‟s ideology of African culture as a means to overcome colonialism provides a pathway towards Independence. educational and cultural and scientific material which will improve cultural relations between the African States and inculcate greater knowledge amongst us through such efforts as joint youth festivals. “Fanon‟s rejection of methodologies is. the opportunity for Independence may have passed and further stifled the development of an organic Native culture or even allowed for an neocolonial intrusion. but the absence of ideology. In this sense. Kwame Nkrumah convened the Conference of Independent African States in April 1958.
These are all efforts to overcome the shattering of the African left by the Colonial legacy. Their parents may be too engrained with the colonial ideology of African inferiority. many Ghanaians stated that Ghana only comes together for an important football match. Furthermore. Though this is clearly exaggerated.” It is in response to such actions that emerging African states focus their attention to regenerating African culture. “The youth today have very few guides from the past because parents were ashamed to discuss the enslavement process that destroyed their mind. “The method of allusion is more and more widely used.Though Fanon may not have believed so fully in Pan-Africanism. but it might well have happened here today. including traditional storytellers. thereby regenerating a native culture in a modern context. and it might happen tomorrow‟” Fanon stresses the incorporation of this class into the national struggle because of the Colonial Powers instant opposition to traditional storytellers. explaining “…Colonialism made no mistake when from 1955 on it proceeded to arrest these storytellers systematically.” Fanon‟s writing about the storytellers adaptations is the same process as states coming together to explore and exchange native cultures. Moore writes of the tensions between a colonized generation and a free generation. which gives basis for a regenerated African culture. the inclusion of PanAfrican Youth Conferences allows the youth to further free themselves from the legacies of colonialism and develop an African culture. and their culture. By using local pre- . to this day. this resolution discusses the exchange of national cultures for regional cooperation to overcome the yoke of the colonial heritage. In an effort to create a “new national historiography” free from the influence that colonization had had on the “minds of the masses about their past.” Therefore. is a great creator of national identity. so that the children are the only ones able to actually overcome the colonial psyche.” Fanon explains that the traditional storytellers become a part of national native culture by becoming contemporary. sport also gives the opportunity for traditional songs and stories to become adapted for the sporting event. storytellers adapt their approach. to further regenerate a native culture. Though sporting events may be one outlet for modernizing traditional songs and dances.” Sporting events. true Independence can only occur with them. namely the utter destruction of native culture and the manipulation of the African psyche.” African leaders recognized the importance of learning from “the traditional historians some of whom had also begun to write down their own accounts of traditional history. as Fanon writes. the opportunity of Independence allows states to embrace their own cultural heritages. and songs of the people. so as such its inclusion breeds a cultural development towards a national identity. their community. Fanon writes. “The claim to a national culture in the past does not only rehabilitate that nation and serve as a justification for the hope of a future national culture. Because the Colonial Powers aimed to destroy all aspects of African identity and culture. Describing the use of “stories. writing.” In the process of bringing the past to the present. It also may encourage a completely organic African art genre. Furthermore. as these storytellers are often the only ones who retain pre-colonial knowledge on a people‟s history and culture and. the message that sport can shape national culture still holds true. Fanon discusses the larger trend of updating oral tradition to fit with contemporary trends. The identification of what is considered cultural in this resolution is also noteworthy. epics. Upon this author‟s travels to Ghana. laws and customs. specifically mentioning “joint youth festivals” and “sporting events. which cuts across regions. This process is essential to national identity. the inclusion of youth festivals in the Resolution is significant because to a very large extent. too far into the subjugation of the mind. The formula „This all happened long ago‟ is substituted with that of „What we are going to speak of happened somewhere else.
He writes in response to the conference. complete Independence. which is probably the reason he writes “opens limitless possibilities. The youth act as the inheritors of Independence but also as the freedom fighters for a successful development of culture. you must fashion the revolution with the people. it seemed. Furthermore. African governments guarantee a fuller African revolution.” Thus. “A national culture in underdeveloped countries should therefore take its place at the very heart of the struggle for freedom which these countries are carrying on. until now with an absolute wretchedness. an authentic one. journalists and writers. Liberia. The gathering of people allows for a successful. Fanon writes. youth organizations. his ideas are key factors in properly understanding the process of overcoming Colonialism. as well as any revolutionary. not only the political appearance of one. which concerns man and which opens limitless prospects for his enhancement. A more notable conference occurred at the end of 1958. it begets others to embrace their local art and create more. or humanist songs. regional. in which he states. the central component for a regeneration of native culture for Fanon.” which will then lead to cultural developments such as nationalistic. in which the exchange of regional ideas is possible. are creating a new kind of civilization. His reaction comes from his observation of Asian countries who had once been colonial subjects. For Fanon. Fanon‟s urging of national culture becomes a central point of the struggle for Independence. In their attempts to create a Union of African States. afflicted. it is clear that simply . Be it resolved and it is hereby resolved by the All-African People‟s Conference that the Conference:…(b) urges the organization of regional conferences respectively of political parties. Though his texts date later than these conferences. (588) Fanon understands these developments as cultural events that promote a regeneration of native culture. the conference types are all expressive of open cultures. The open culture hypothesis fully supports his assertions. Fanon‟s ideology of a regeneration of native culture is clearly relevant to these meetings of African people. This is echoed in Fanon‟s writing. which ensures true and permanent Independence opposing the temptations of neocolonialism. “Asia is now liberated from colonialism and territories like China. Fanon explicates how a culture can successfully overcome the destructions of colonialism to create a new pride in national identity and culture. the songs will come by themselves. Furthermore. Among the numerous commitments to human rights listed in the official Resolution. further regenerating the African personality from the psychological legacies of colonialism. trade unions. Nkrumah. Tubman. and of themselves. also in Accra. this is clearly essential to Independence. and Guinea in 1959. and dances. and Sekou Toure emphasize that “rehabilitation and diffusion of African culture [as] an imperative duty” because it is “one of the essential elements in the struggle against Colonialism”. women‟s organizations. Rather. it was a meeting to organize how to prevail against colonialism and free the peoples of Africa. etc. "To take part in the African revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song. Furthermore. plays. The resolution reads. And if you fashion it with the people. No government document is more explicit about African culture than one that comes from meetings between the Heads of State of Ghana." By creating regional conferences. In his writing. one can read the Resolution as describing activities which bring the masses together. the mixing of arts breeds a new national or regional pride and identity.colonial primitivism as a basis for art. The incorporation of the masses is the only way to “fashion the revolution.” alluding to his hypothesis of cultures.” Citing the Asian example. culture also appears as an important element. The All-African People‟s Conference included Africans from countries not yet independent and people not representing official governments.
Though this example comes from nearly a generation after Independence.” further modernizing the medium of traditional storytellers. it is evidence that decisions made at the Conference still influence culture today. but a smothering and destruction of native culture. Furthermore. They also recommend “national broadcasting of African cultural. independence. Because precolonial culture had been destroyed. Fanon speaks for the struggle of every subjugated person throughout history who must deal with the notion that non-Western society is inferior to the „progressive. . Though he may have disagreed with many about the nature of Pan-Africanism. In his observations. It has been shown here how Fanon captures the pulse of the leaders of the time to create an organic native culture. as well as other African leaders. native culture will be stifled and Africans will be drawn back to the European culture that engrained their inferiority into the African personality. Fanon. Otherwise. the point is that Fanon was able to express the proper issues for the redemption of the African. recognize that true Independence must come with a complete separation from the Colonial influence. his writings on regenerating an organic native culture become the mouthpiece of revolution. It also illustrates the modernization of a traditional story and genre (griot storytelling) to express itself in a new West African culture. Fanon forces the issue of culture to the forefront of the Independence movements. the movie captures the essence of what Fanon writes about. Alternatively. and folklore programmes. rooted in the past. One excellent example of this is the 1994 Burkinabe film Keita: The Heritage of the Griot directed by Dani Kouyaté. musical. Though his writings here came from a later date. Beyond these conferences and meetings. idealistic European powers.removing the Colonial regime does not guarantee freedom or Independence. This movie stands as a success from overcoming colonialism from the Fanonian perspective on native culture. In recognizing that Colonialism was not just an economic or human rights issue. it was up to the youth and artists to rejuvenate or regenerate a national culture. namely rejecting foreign influence for an authentic and organic native culture. and freedom.‟ Because Fanon so accurately expresses the feelings of resentment and alienation of subjugated people. but conscious of the present and future realities facing African nations. Further analyses of international conferences would illustrate the extent that Fanon ideology was considered and incorporated into state policy during the era of African Independence. the Second All-African People‟s Conference held in Tunisia in 1960 most directly names some of the issues that overcoming Colonialism presents to the regeneration of native culture. the complete separation will allow for a regeneration of native culture and healing of the African personality. which updates the Epic of Sundiata into a contemporary setting dealing with tradition and modernity in West Africa. National selfdetermination could only be successful if it accompanied a national native culture. his voice exemplifies the struggle to recognize national culture as intricately woven into the struggle for freedom. Resolutions from this conference discuss the “elimination of falsehoods concerning the history of Africa due to foreign and colonialist influences” and “the teaching of African civilization and culture” in schools and universities.
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