Africa. The Motherland. The home of the Garden of Eden and the crater of life. Despite its rich history of kings, queens, and inventions, the recent rhetoric out of the continent has been one of colonial rule, warring factions, and a struggle to gain and retain independence. Despite its challenges, the countries of Africa continue to progress toward a bright future with booming economies and democratic governments, but one illusive goal remains just out of reach: unity.
Unifying the countries of Africa has been on at the forefront of some of its leaders for years. But despite this, and the formation of coalitions like the African Union, a unified, totally independent Africa has not yet been realized. But, many people haven’t given up on this dream just yet.
Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi is one of them, and a new film by Canadian filmmaker Yannick Létourneau chronicles his journey as he travels to over 40 countries to collaborate with hip hop artists across the diaspora to celebrate those leaders who have worked and are working for a unified Africa.
The United States of Africa is about “one artist’s profound meditation on the power of music and the impact of political engagement—both individual and collective,” and centers on Awadi as he works with artists and activists like Smockey (Burkina Faso), M-1 of Dead Prez (United States) and ZuluBoy (South Africa).
Recently, Létourneau chatted with the blog Africa is A Country to explain why he made the film.
This film has become for me a way to challenge the stereotypes and the negative representations I had of the African continent and the contribution by Africans to civilization and history — too often portrayed in a negative way as if Africa was somewhere outside of history. Sarkozy’s speech in Dakar in August 2007 (where Sarkozy said Africans had “not fully entered history”) sums up that colonialist point of view very well. This film is my way to talk about this other Africa we unfortunately don’t know much about.
Like many Westerners, Létourneau realized he didn’t know anything about Africa’s history, its people, and its thinkers, but only saw the continent through the prism of what it presented in the media. But after traveling to many of its countries he was overcome with its wealth and wanted to inform others.
I think the film is a good start.
*Learn more about The United States of Africa and its filmmaker on the Africa Is A Country blog.