The pen, the brush, and the guitar have proven to be mightier than the sword.
Whether you look at the use of nigro spirituals in America or the rejection of colonial rule in folk songs along the rural parts of Somali—the impact that music, poetry and art has had on political movements have been inextricable. The likes of Bansky, Maya Angelo, or the (recently deceased) Pete Seeger have strategically used their median of artistry to demonstrate their frustrations with the inequalities that exist within their societies. From the use of graffiti artwork to protest the lack of socioeconomic equality, to the use of politically seeded literary poems discussing how racial equality is necessary. Each of these artists have demonstrated how a single voice can be powerful enough to galvanize people around a particular issue.
Similarly, Artists in Africa are using the arts as a platform to spread their message of freedom, peace and equality. Artists such as Frederic Bruly Boudreau (Cote d’Ivore), Chimamanda Adichie (Nigeria), and K’aann/ Mohamed Hashi Daher (Somalia) have found creative ways to protest against wars, voice their grievances with existing inequalities, and express their ideal social conditions for all. Inadvertently, these artists have utilized democratic ideals and made the fundamentals of democracy a necessary way of life and a cause worthy of fighting for.
Frederic Bruly Boudreau, recently deceased, was named by BBC as one of Africa’s most celebrated visual artists. His works have represented Cote d’Ivore in a positive light throughout Europe for the past 25 years. His use of visual art language was instrumental in transcribing the oral traditions of his people. Boudreau used his artwork to lift the oral traditions of Africa and deem them worthy of documenting. Today, he is celebrated throughout Africa as a symbolic fixture to the importance of preserving the historical and oral traditions of the continent for future generations to come.
Whereas, author and poet Chimamanda Adichie uses her role as a well-known literary artist to re-frame Nigeria’s perception on the role of women by giving her female characters a platform to voice their strengths and desires. Adichie presents herself as a strong advocate for feminist movements both domestically and continent wide and she continues to defy social convention with each piece she publishes. Her work serves as a remarkable bridge between the generation of technological boom and the generation of folk stories and seamlessly blends the two together.
K’naan and the late poet Mohamed Hashi Daher represent two different generations of storytelling in Somalia. Each make their own statements as to how one can achieve democratic ideals but what brings these two artists together is their sheer desire to see a peaceful and free state in Somalia and throughout the continent. K’naan popularized songs like Soobax, Waving Flags and Fatima. His widespread message of peace and stability has brought the Somali-Diaspora face to face with the realities of the current state of Somalia and the need for a unified front against war and corruption. Writing just a generation prior to K’naan, poet and activist Mohamed Hashi Dhama also known as Gaariye, wrote a popular poem about Nelson Mandela when he was still in prison. The poem discusses how the pen and art in general can be utilized as a weapon against oppression and persecution. Dhama finalizes the poem with mentioning how overtime the pen will indeed become stronger than the gun.
Whether artists use music, art or poetry to deliver their message the impact and effectiveness of their story is undeniable. And as the internet makes these artists far more accessible to us today than ever before their message of peace and freedom will only continue to shape the perception of what constitutes basic fundamental needs to a wider audience.