On 'Dear Upright African'
In his long essay, Dear Upright African, Donald Molosi engages with the challenge of the colonial metaphysical empire. Having spent half of his life in the United States, the writer came to understand first-hand the analogies between the physical deteritorrialisation experienced by Africans who were shipped into slavery in the Americas, and the psychologically deterritorialisiation of many Africans who reside on the continent.
When making educational choices within the school system available, many well-meaning African parents resident on the African continent opt "for their children not to speak African languages and not to learn African history." Molosi's indignation at this development is fueled by his own experience in a school system – which still exists – whose curriculum is effectively designed to inculcate a sense of African inferiority in those who are educated in it. Poignantly, Molosi writes, "As you read this, an African somewhere in Africa is losing their job for speaking an African language to fellow Africans in the workplace. An African child lies in hospital after being physically beaten by a teacher for speaking to another African student in an African vernacular in the classroom."
Asserting that African languages matter, describing how 12 of Botswana's 40 languages are endangered, Molosi engages with the crucial question of the extent to which African languages are used and can be used to share modern experience. Thus Molosi implicates agents of government who have neglected the development of African languages and who have allowed the development and conitnuation of a Eurocentric educational curriculum in the project of the metaphysical empire.
Molosi relates his own personal experiences of an hegemonic colonial, white supremacist gaze that reduces the diversity of that which is African and the very concept of Africaness to a constructed stereotype that both titillates and validates the hegemonic order. He points to how, as with the economic imperative on which the slave trade was predicated, such reductionism continues to reinforce the economic project of the colonial empire today thourgh its effects on individual black bodies.
Palpably outraged, Molosi reminds us – sharing vivid examples – of how the metaphysical and physical engagement of empire with the African continent formed a carefully orchestrated strategy whose end result was to inflict large numbers of Africans, including African elites, with a chronic, debilitating self-hatred. Drawing from his extensive reading on the subject, Molosi offers practical remedies for the devastating crisis he chronicles.
If you like this article, please consider becoming a Patron and contributing to the work we do here at The Mantle.