Book covers of 'Thomas Sankara Speaks', 'Freedom is a Constant Struggle' and 'Let My People Go'.

Here are 7 Important Books to Read About the Revolution

Here are 7 Important Books to Read About Revolution

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane hand-picks 7 books written by Black authors reflecting on the revolution. As there is continued political instability across the African continent (and the world), these books put into words the difficult experiences through which many Black people are living.

Black people are thinkers and have been thinking about change and revolution for a long time. I often return to Audre Lorde whose thinking has shaped me in many ways. In February of 1982, she delivered an address titled Learning from the 60s as part of the celebration of the Malcolm X weekend at Harvard University. In her address, she said that, "As Black people, if there is one thing we can learn from the 60s, it is how infinitely complex any move for liberation must be." In this, Lorde urged us to understand that any move for our liberation is one that is complex.

Reflecting on her words now, we see how they ring true when observing large scale global movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #EndSARS, #EndAnglophoneCrisis, the global pandemic and several others. These movements have reminded us that the quest for liberation itself is undeniably complex and that it requires us to think quite deeply and sincerely about what liberation actually looks like.

As Lorde says in her speech: "[R]evolution is not a one-time event. It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established and outgrown responses. For instance, it is learning to address each other's difference with respect." Although books will not lead the revolution, they are our tools to begin to concepetualise what others before us have done and how we can improve on what is already there. These books help us to begin to think and to imagine our freedoms particularly as Black people.

Below is a list of 7 important books written by Black authors about the revolution.

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane is a South African advocate and co-founder of the literature podcast, Cheeky Natives. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


1. 'How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective' by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

This book is a collection of interviews featuring the founders of the Collective mainly Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier. It also features Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and as a bonus, a comment by Barbara Ransby, who remarks on the creation of the Collective and how it especially inspires her. The Collective was one of the most important organisations to develop out of the anti-racism and women's liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The conversations in the book are reflections on the legacy of the Collective with regards to Black feminism and its impact on today's struggles. As Frazier says: "the point of talking about the Collective is not to be nostalgic; rather, we talk about it because Black women are still not free."

2. 'Freedom is a Constant Struggle' by Angela Y. Davis

This is a collection of essays, interviews and speeches by the revolutionary Angela Y. Davis. These musings illuminate the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. They are a reflection on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality and prison abolitionism. Davis masterfully discusses the legacies of Black freedom movements. Additionally, she says in an interview with Frank Barat that is included in the book: "I would say that our struggles mature, they produce new ideas, new issues and new terrains on which we engage in the quest for freedom. Like Nelson Mandela, we must be willing to embrace the long walk toward freedom."

3. 'The Black Consciousness Reader' by Baldwin Ndaba, Therese Owen, Masego Panyane, Rabbie Serumula and Janet Smith

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

This book was published in the year of the 40th anniversary of Stephen Bantu Biko's murder. The book is an essential collection of history, interviews and opinions about Black Consciousness. It examines how the proper acknowledgement of Blackness brings a greater love, a broader sweep of heroes and a wider understanding of intellectual and political influences. The book shines a spotlight on other significant Black Consciousness personalities such as Vuyelwa Mashalaba, Assata Shakur, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Onkgopotse Tiro, to name but a few. It is a perfect reading companion for both I Write What I Like and The Testimony of Steve Biko.

4. 'Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede' edited by Robert R. Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza

Anton Lembede was the first president of South Africa's African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). He was known for this sharp intellect, fiery personality and unwavering commitment to the struggles at hand. This book contributes to the liberation canon by acknowledging Lembede's early contribution to the freedom movement and his passionate and eloquent articulation of the African-centred philosophy he called "Africanism".

​5. 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation' by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

This book is about the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and the persistence of structural inequality including mass incarceration and Black unemployment. Taylor argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation. Robin D.G Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, said of the book: "Class Matters! In this clear-eyed, historically informed account of the latest wave of resistance to state violence, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor not only exposes the canard of color-blindness but reveals how structural racism and class oppression are joined at the hip. If today's rebels ever expect to end inequality and racialized state violence, she warns, then capitalism must also end. And that requires forging new solidarities, envisioning a new social and economic order, and pushing a struggle to protect Black lives to its logical conclusion: a revolution capable of transforming the entire nation."

​6. Thomas Sankara Speaks - A collection of selected writings

Sankara says that, "We must dare to invent the future. Everything man is capable of imagining, he can create." It is this call that we must heed––the invention of the future. This requires imagination and as South African Professor Pumla Gqola encourages, it requires that we must do some "dream work". This book brings us Thomas Sankara in his own words. It is a careful selection of his writings and interviews from 1983 until his tragic and untimely assassination in 1987.

​7. 'Let My People Go' by Albert Luthuli

Image supplied by Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane.

Luthuli writes in the preface of the book: "This book is the outcome, after long hesitation on my part, of the urging of my friends. It is true that in the last thirty years I have been increasingly identified with the movement of resistance against oppression by white supremacy in South Africa, until now, I find myself at its head. Nevertheless, I regard my life as one among many, and my role in the resistance as one among many." Luthuli tells the story of the repression and resistance that were to shape the South African political landscape forever: the Defiance Campaign. This was the first mass challenge to the Apartheid regime. he also speaks about the drafting of the Freedom Charter, the infamous Treason Trial and the tragedies of the Sharpville and Langa massacres.

Culture
Image courtesy of the artist

Spotlight: NK Is The Future and Star of His Own Show

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ghanaian digital artist NK. The self-proclaimed Afrocentric visual artist's love for drawing and sketching at a young age pushed him to explore the many ways in which modern technology supports and advances creativity. Simply playing around with a popular photo editing app propelled the young artist into a world of self discovery, empowerment, and a keen understanding about how big the Universe we call home actually is. As the digital creative puts it, "I think my interest in space and what could exist outside the world we live in also had an impact on my desire to incorporate futuristic technology with cultural art." Armed with a keen interest in all things Afrofuturist, NK's futuristic eye has gained the teen artist recognition from some of his industry faves, too.

We spoke with the 18-year-old visual artist about creating art from his surroundings and empowering his generation.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Describe your background as an artist and the journey you have taken to get to where it is today.

I grew up with an interest in art and drawing. I loved to draw and sketch, usually with both pen and pencils, whatever was interesting around me. I would make compositions of items within my surroundings and paste them on the walls of my parent’s rooms. My interest in the digital world peaked around the ages of 14 and 15 -- I've always been intrigued by astronauts and futuristic technology. I started digital art in 2017 when I created 2D pieces on the PicsArt app on a phone at home. Eventually, I gained access to the Adobe Photoshop software.

Artists like David Alabo, Beeple, Basquiat, and Juan Carlos Ribas inspired me and also made me think of what I could achieve if I tried. I spent a lot of time watching tutorial videos and related content online to be able to develop my skill. Initially, I created my pieces by combining a number of stock images and online resources to create an entirely new fictional scene. Around early 2020 I had a creative block and was desperate to find new sources of inspiration. Over time I came to the realization that my inspiration surrounded me and that I shouldn’t have to force creativity. I did more research on Afrocentric art and stepped out of my comfort zone to create my first Afrocentric pieces, “Gateway to Paradise” and “Modernization”. These pieces attracted a lot of attention and also the smArt magazine which granted me my first interview and magazine feature opening the door to new relationships in the creative industry, various opportunities, and collaborations.

What are the central themes in your work?

My work is mainly centered around the expression of development in the Black experience and empowering African Culture. I try to factor in Afrofuturism and Afrocentrism in making my pieces whether it’s how my models are dressed, their accessories, or represented by items that surround them. My pieces are intended to put forward the message of creating brighter futures and realities where Africans thrive. This helps give my pieces in themselves an identity.

How did you decide on using a digital medium for your art?

Even though I do draw and sketch, I also feel very comfortable using digital software which to me offers endless possibilities. I believe that using digital media as an African artist helps bridge the gap between technology and cultural art, directly falling in line with my field of interest, Afrofuturism.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

The start of the pandemic in 2020 was devastating. A lot happened during that period. It was during the lockdown that I made the decision to transition into creating Afrocentric art. We were made to take a break from school, which freed up a lot of my time. I had the time to research, watch tutorials and practice more. It might have been one of the most defining years for me as an artist. It also granted me a larger audience as everyone was made to work from home. I actually learned a lot and worked hard during that period and this led to my work improving massively.

Can you describe your artistic relationship with ‘Afro-futurism’?

Afrofuturism is a theme I can really relate to as a young African. It's our responsibility to contribute to our development as a people. I think my interest in space and what could exist outside the world we live in also had an impact on my desire to incorporate futuristic technology with cultural art. I like to think of what we can achieve, the seemingly impossible things, and then I pour out those thoughts and ideas into my art and that is why I immediately fell in love with Afrofuturism. We are the future, the stars of our own show.

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories in your art?

The most dominant figure in my pieces is usually the black figure/model which usually stands out as the main subject. Regarding the backgrounds, I usually try to make a scene with colors to create a particular mood or in some of my pieces to complement the clothes of the model, usually African prints. They range from solid backgrounds to gradients and various sky textures. I use different cultural accessories both for beautification and also to provide that Afrocentric feel and message. I love to use various beads, bracelets, and traditional cloths with interesting textures to convey these messages of who we are as Africans and where we come from.


Artwork by NK

"Cultural Adornment"

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The s-candle burns bright on Twitter as the Youtuber's 'Sòrò Sókè' candle sparks fury over the political meaning behind the name.

We didn't think this week we would see drama from a candle release. But here we are.

Nigerian-American Youtuber Jackie Aina has angered the Nigerian online community after the latest release from her lifestyle candle brand Forvr Mood. The candle, titled"Sòrò Sókè" which translates to "Speak Up", has the Nigerian community up in arms as the saying was originally used during the inhumane #ENDSARS saga that saw the Nigerian government willfully gun down peaceful protesters.

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Director Dare Olaitan talks about his filmmaking process and his attempt to re-educate the audience on the impact of unchecked capitalism.

Dare Olaitan was 26 when his first feature film, Ojukokoro: Greed,, was released in the cinemas. The crime thriller, which was released in 2016, received positive reviews and was nominated for the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Nigerian Film in 2018. Knock Out Blessing, his second film, also got an AMAA nomination the following year. Dwindle, his third, — which is coming to Netflix later this month — was co-directed with Kayode Kasum last year.

In his latest film, Ile Owo, Olaitan aims to capture the horrific by exploring social hierarchies, poverty, class politics, and religion in the Nigerian society. The psychological trailer stars Immaculata Oko, Tina Mba, Akin Lewis, Bisola Aiyeola, Efe Iwara and a host of others.

In this interview with OkayAfrica, Olaitan talks about his filmmaking process and his attempt to re-educate the audience on the impact of unchecked capitalism.

Ile-Owo screenshot two women

Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

Ile-Owo is your fourth film, but the first horror. What drew you to this genre and why did you decide horror was the most fitting form to tell the story?

I think horror movies are a great way to deal with social issues by motifs and metaphors to illustrate things that I am concerned about at the moment. I am also interested in the global interest in the horror genre and its ability to travel. I would say Ile Owo isn’t a true horror film. It’s closer to a psychological thriller.

Of course, horror is not new in Nigerian films, and quite a number of millennials, including you, who grew up in the country can attest to watching them. Was there something you wanted to do differently?

I feel like horror exploded in the Nigerian film industry as a reaction to the dictatorship of [Sani] Abacha in the early '90s. This made our films metaphors for the social problems with evangelical and pentecostal churches and movements growing in that time. Ile Owo is a retread of those thoughts and feelings. Just updated for 2022.

It's interesting you mentioned religious movements. Ile Owo confronts social hierarchies, hardship, and the ways religion serves as succor for many. How much can relate to that?

I think it’s impossible to grow up in a third world country and not witness the impact economics has on many people. Religion creates some sense of structure and safety in a chaotic environment. The worse the economic situation of a region the higher the religious fervor.

Can you talk a bit about your technique, particularly on evoking fear on the big screen?

I knew my limitations and the limitations of the crew, so I tried to evoke fear in the mind of the viewer. By creating situations where the audience’s imagination completes the scare thus making it all the more personal.

And did you achieve that? Do you think the audience had enough material to work with?

I think to an extent. There is always room to grow. I learned lessons, I can say that much.

What lessons?

What Nigerians like to watch and how to structure things better. In terms of production, I’ve never done anything of this magnitude. I learned more about VFX.

You've spoken in the past about your interest in making seven films based on the seven deadly sins, which will be titled after each sin. You've made Ojukokoro (Greed). Where does Ile Owo come in? And why is exploring these themes important to you?

The seven deadly sins are an important thematic element for me. They represent some commonality in the human experience. Things people in every culture can relate to and have experienced in their daily lives. Ile Owo is not part of the seven. Igberaga (Pride) is the next one on the slate.

Ile-Owo screenshot man in car

Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

What exactly did you want to say in Ile Owo?

Ile Owo is really a film about the subjection of Nigerian women in the traditional marriage structures, how they are exploited by the expectations of culture and lose their lives and youth to support men who use them for personal gain. That was the nugget that informed the writing and creation of the story. I just had to obfuscate through metaphors and motifs.

Past conversations on social media have shown that some key players in Nollywood don't take criticism very well. How do you navigate unpleasant remarks about your work?

I can only speak for myself but I know I have no problem with well-intentioned criticism. I make art so it’s nice to get the thoughts of the people it was created for. I think the problem comes in with poorly-intentioned criticism. I have gotten reviews that called me stupid or foolish. I don’t think reviews like that help anyone and make it harder for creatives to express themselves.

How does your background in Economics and Business Management influence your work as a filmmaker?

It experiences the way I view life as it was the first viewpoint I used to parse reality. It’s evident in all my work as my subject matter almost always covers inequality and the rising gap between the rich and the poor. I think capitalism has become unchecked and I am doing my little part to re-educate the audience.

I recall a character hallucinating in Ojukokoro. There's a similar element in Ile Owo, portrayed by the protagonist's father. You seem keen on exploring the intersection of mental illness and the supernatural.

What is mental illness and what is supernatural? Are they not two shirts cut from the same fabric? I am not sure to be honest. I just like to mess with themes that are interesting to me. I think there is a thing among indigenous creatures where people who have mental illnesses are seen to be closer to the supernatural. Perhaps this is an extension of that.

Director Dare Olaitan

Photo Credit: Victor Lopez

As the writer and director, you must have had the most influence on the outcome of this film. What other factors impacted the production? If you could change anything in the process, from ideation to premiere, what would that be?

Nigeria. Making films in Nigeria is very hard. Filmmaking is akin to war. We must conquer the reality and bend it to our will in order to for 90-120 minutes, capture the audience in disbelief and play them to our wishes. Nigeria makes this hard as life here is already war. Budgetary concerns, technical inability to accomplish some of our goals are things that will always impact production. I wish I had more time and money.

What are the three things filmmakers just starting out should bear in mind?

Your message. Your reasons for doing it. Your tone. These things will guide you and stop you from missteps. I wish I had that knowledge when I started.

It's fascinating how you're able to move across different genres: crime, comedy, and psychological thriller. You're a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, and that's evident in your work. Who are some of the filmmakers that have had the most influence on your work and why?

Robert Rodriguez. Martin Scorsese. [Francis Ford] Coppola. These are the people whose films I look up too. We might have the same content in terms of premise but I like to see what they do to navigate problems because as a director all you are doing is really solving problems and translating ideas into images. I watched a lot of their film commentaries when I started out, so their voices sort of guide me.


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