Op-Ed
Image via TONL

On Behalf of My Unborn Son: Thank You African Male Artists

African men's openness towards exploring different kinds of masculinity gives me hope for the future.

First things first: I'm not pregnant. But, like many people, I contemplate the world I'll be bringing my children into whenever they so choose to arrive. I don't know who or what their father will be. Ghanaian-Swedish? Haitian-Italian? American – who knows? What I do know for certain is that any son I have will be, at least, half black.

I've long struggled with the seeming paradox of the black imagination. One the one hand, our creative conscious imagines entire lifestyles into existence. We create global trends in fashion, music, dance, language, poetry and literature. Our minds are ground zero for creating entire cultures. But when it comes to ourselves, we seem to be unable to imagine being seen as whole human beings. I feel like even in our imaginations we don't dare to imagine ourselves truly respected and truly free because that freedom might threaten others. It's a problem I have in myself, it's a problem I'm not proud of.

So when I imagine the world my son will enter, I'm hesitant about bringing a son into a world that won't make room for the multitudes he will contain—that all of us contain. I worry that he won't know that he can be all the things he needs to be and be black.

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Audio

Petite Noir Is the King of Noirwave

On his new release, La Maison Noir, Petite Noir blends bombastic rhythms, surging melodies, and the style and substance of the DRC.

Petite Noir gained global notoriety by 2015 for his brilliant, shapeshifting pop debut La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful. The album was self-described by the artist, born Yannick Ilunga, as noirwave, a genre that extends beyond the music to embrace new concepts of freedom, power and African solidarity.

Three years later, Petite Noir has returned with a six-track EP and an accompanying four-track short film that delves considerably deeper into noirwave and his Congolese roots. The music of La Maison Noir / The Black House and its introspective 18-minute film explores ideas of gender, identity as a migrant, and political resistance.

A young Yannick Illunga and his family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo and went into exile after his father faced threats as a former minister of the DRC. They emigrated to Belgium and France before settling permanently in Cape Town.

It's clear from Petite Noir's distinct, genre-blurring noirwave aesthetic that he's absorbed influences on a global scale. His discography up until now showcases a thrilling range of left-field electronics, post-punk and alternative rock, all anchored to the more traditional African sounds of his childhood. Petite Noir is a truly cosmopolitan artist. But on La Maison Noir, moving to the foreground through its bombastic rhythms and surging melodies, the style and substance of Africa takes precedence.

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