So, my mother's a pediatrician, and when I was young, she'd tell the craziest stories that combined science with her overactive imagination. One of the stories she told was that if you eat a lot of salt, all of the blood rushes up your legs, through your body, and shoots out the top of your head, killing you instantly.
She called it "high blood pressure."
This was my first experience with science fiction, and I loved it. So when I started to write my own science fiction and fantasy, I was surprised that it was considered un-African. So naturally, I asked, what is African? And this is what I know so far: Africa is important. Africa is the future. It is, though. And Africa is a serious place where only serious things happen.
So when I present my work somewhere, someone will always ask, "What's so important about it? How does it deal with real African issues like war, poverty, devastation or AIDS?" And it doesn't. My work is about Nairobi pop bands that want to go to space or about seven-foot-tall robots that fall in love. It's nothing incredibly important. It's just fun, fierce and frivolous, as frivolous as bubble gum --"AfroBubbleGum."
So I'm not saying that agenda art isn't important; I'm the chairperson of a charity that deals with films and theaters that write about HIV and radicalization and female genital mutilation. It's vital and important art, but it cannot be the only art that comes out of the continent. We have to tell more stories that are vibrant. The danger of the single story is still being realized. And maybe it's because of the funding. A lot of art is still dependent on developmental aid. So art becomes a tool for agenda. Or maybe it's because we've only seen one image of ourselves for so long that that's all we know how to create. Whatever the reason, we need a new way, and AfroBubbleGum is one approach. It's the advocacy of art for art's sake. It's the advocacy of art that is not policy-driven or agenda-driven or based on education, just for the sake of imagination: AfroBubbleGum art.
And we can't all be AfroBubbleGumists. We have to judge our work for its potential poverty porn pitfalls. We have to have tests that are similar to the Bechdel test, and ask questions like: Are two or more Africans in this piece of fiction healthy? Are those same Africans financially stable and not in need of saving? Are they having fun and enjoying life? And if we can answer yes to two or more of these questions, then surely we're AfroBubbleGumists.
And fun is political, because imagine if we have images of Africans who were vibrant and loving and thriving and living a beautiful, vibrant life. What would we think of ourselves then? Would we think that maybe we're worthy of more happiness? Would we think of our shared humanity through our shared joy? I think of these things when I create. I think of the people and the places that give me immeasurable joy, and I work to represent them. And that's why I write stories about futuristic girls that risk everything to save plants or to race camels or even just to dance, to honor fun, because my world is mostly happy.
And I know happiness is a privilege in this current splintered world where remaining hopeful requires diligence. But maybe, if you join me in creating, curating and commissioning more AfroBubbleGum art, there might be hope for a different view of the world, a happy Africa view where children are strangely traumatized by their mother's dark sense of humor,
but also they're claiming fun, fierce and frivolous art in the name of all things unseriously African. Because we're AfroBubbleGumistsand there's so many more of us than you can imagine.
Thank you so much.