Medea was directed by Mariska Denysschen, a Tshwane University of Technology student. Medea is an interpretation of Euripides’ Greek tragedy. Picture: Supplied
If art encompasses the creative expression of oneself, then many African artists have been suffering from predetermined and programmed amnesia. In valorising a European mentality to the detriment of their own, self-expression for them has been a misconstrued one.

The mentality of those who are to be the leaders in their respective fields is largely shaped by the universities that they attend.  

However, when taught to perceive the world through the eyes of another culture, one consciously and unconsciously learns to see oneself as an insignificant part of your own world. Africans have been subjugated by limiting their awareness of themselves and indoctrinating them with ideas that are, within their cultural identity, alien to them.

Obenewa Amponsah, CEO of the Steve Biko Foundation (SBF), says that, “It is fundamentally a problem when African people go to universities for years at a time and in those years they never encounter anything of themselves. It reaps this idea that black people have never contributed to anything, that they have not helped to shape history and then it reinforces the notion that we cannot be change agents of our society.”

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Simphiwe Sesanti, associate professor at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) explains, “There is an assumption that education is not African and the assumption that has been imposed and entrenched by the Western world is that they have given us education.” 

He argues that, “The first responsibility for us is to relearn what it means to be African, to study African culture so that we can re-Africanise ourselves. Having done that, then we can insert that into the curriculum of universities and the entire national sphere.”

Medea. Picture: Supplied

In harnessing one’s inner potential, it is imperative to be equipped with an awareness of one’s identity. Paradigms that come out of academia usually become policies of a country. Change, therefore, needs to start at universities. For this reason, Afrocentric education has, as one of its tenets, the decolonisation of the African mind.

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An Afrocentric education does not necessarily wish to isolate Africans from a Eurocentric education system, but wishes to assert the autonomy of Africans and encompass the cultural uniqueness of all learners. The risk of radical “decolonised education” is in rejecting the advances made elsewhere, specifically the West.

“The challenge for tertiary education in South Africa is to ensure that the curriculum presented is based on international best practice,” says Brenda Wingfield (vice-president of the Academy of Science of South Africa and Professor at the University of Pretoria). 

“We cannot limit the knowledge base of South Africa’s next generations to only regional knowledge and culture. This would be tantamount to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” She reiterates, however, that we need to be locally relevant and celebrate authentic African advancement.

An Afrocentric education, therefore, does not necessarily wish to isolate Africans from a Eurocentric education system but wishes to assert the autonomy of Africans and encompass the cultural authenticity of its students.

Tshwane University of Technology’s Performing Arts Faculty is embracing Africanisation and is pioneering curricula that will be of great significance in the shaping of their students’ creative minds.

Professor Janine Lewis from TUT’s Department of Drama and Film, explains that the TUT Performing Arts cluster acknowledges that an Africanised curriculum should not be fashioned as an outright elimination of European thinking, but rather as a refutation of anticipated European intellectual supremacy.

Lewis reiterates that within Africanised adult education, the perceptions of both the colonised and the coloniser need to be deliberated.

Garuba (2015) explains it as “their interwoven histories, their discursive entanglements - without necessarily harmonising them or attending to one while erasing the other”.

Kamwendo (2016) agrees that “scholarship of African and non-African origins must feed into each other and strengthen each other”. He warns that their employment in segregation, in this globalised world, cannot be productive.

Lewis explains that, to this end, the performing arts cluster training strategy has conformed to these paradigms, and continues to do so. This was achieved by structuring the embodied learning coursework towards a multi-disciplinary experiential approach, where reflection is key to facilitating lasting learning experiences and developing lifelong learning.

Within TUT’s adopted African paradigm Western antecedence is not altogether neglected, but African contents in the curriculum have been given prominence. This falls squarely in line with the African Renaissance agenda, the African Union Commission’s Agenda 2063 (“The Africa We Want”), the South African government’s Charter for the Humanities and the Social Science, South African Higher Education Act and the Revised White Paper on Arts and Culture, South Africa.

Lewis adds that the new curriculum for the performing arts qualification (including dance, music, theatre arts and design) is a dynamic one. It proposes many innovative ways of offering inter- and multi-disciplinary opportunities, as well as a strong Africanisation thrust to study in this field, which in turn should significantly influence our performing arts creative industry.